The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Qi gong

Qi gong

What is it?

Qi gong is a broadly defined traditional Chinese therapy that uses low-to-moderate intensity exercise and posture, movements, meditation, and breathing patterns. Qi gong attempts to regulate mind, body, and breath. Tai chi, a relatively well-known form of traditional Chinese exercise, is one specific type of Qi gong. Other practices such as meditation, yoga and Reiki therapy are also considered parts of Qi gong.

Qi gong is used for treating pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopausal symptoms, depression, high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, opioid withdrawal, asthma, a lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), muscular dystrophy, stomach problems, autism, and stress and fatigue. It is also used for preventing osteoporosis and falls, for maintaining weight loss, and for general health and exercise. Qi gong is also used to reduce side effects of chemotherapy and for fatigue, pain, and depression in people with cancer.

Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The Effectiveness ratings for Qi Gong are as follows:

Possibly Effective for…

  • Tiredness from cancer. Some clinical research shows that practicing Qi gong might reduce feelings of tiredness in people with cancer.
  • High blood pressure. Some clinical research shows that Qi gong therapy can lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure .

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for…

  • Asthma. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might help lung function and prevent lung infections in people with asthma.
  • A heart problem called atrial fibrillation. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong exercises helps people with this condition to walk farther.
  • Autism. Early research shows that performing external Qi gong on children with autism improves behavior.
  • Side effects caused by chemotherapy. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong helps to reduce side effects of chemotherapy in people with cancer. Qi gong might even help chemotherapy work better in some people.
  • Cancer related quality of life. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might help people with cancer to feel happier.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Early research shows that practicing Qi gong with mindfulness meditation might help to reduce symptoms in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • A lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might help people with COPD to walk farther. It might also help to improve their lung function.
  • A chronic pain condition called complex regional pain syndrome. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might decrease pain and anxiety in people with complex regional pain syndrome.
  • Clogged arteries (coronary artery disease). Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might help to improve fitness, balance, and coordination in people with coronary artery disease.
  • Depression. Early research shows that a Qi gong exercise program can reduce symptoms of depression and improve feelings of well-being in depressed elderly people .
  • Diabetes. Early research shows that Qi gong might help reduce fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in people with type 2 diabetes. Some research also suggests that Qi gong might reduce HbA1C, a longer-term measure of blood sugar levels. However, not all research agrees. Also, Qi gong does not appear to reduce weight in people with diabetes .
  • Fibromyalgia. Practicing Qi gong or receiving Qi gong therapy that is performed by a trained Qi gong practitioner might decrease pain and improve functioning in people with fibromyalgia.
  • Stomach inflammation (gastritis). Early research shows that practicing Qi gong exercises might help to reduce symptoms of stomach inflammation.
  • Learning disabilities. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might help school children to get better grades and improve behavior.
  • Low back pain. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might help to improve chronic low back pain.
  • Menopausal symptoms. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might improve some symptoms of menopause, as well as sleep.
  • Muscular dystrophy. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might make people with muscular dystrophy feel better about their health. However, it doesn’t seem to help with balance.
  • Neck pain. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong for 6 months might reduce some neck pain. However, practicing Qi gong for only 3 months does not seem to help.
  • Opioid withdrawal. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong and receiving qi adjustments for 10 days as part of a detox program decreases withdrawal symptoms, reduces anxiety, and prevents relapse in some people addicted to heroin.
  • Osteoarthritis. There is some evidence that Qi gong therapy that is performed by a trained Qi gong practitioner can reduce pain and improve mood in people with osteoarthritis.
  • Osteoporosis. Some research shows that middle-aged women who practice Baduanjin Qi gong lose bone mass more slowly than women who don’t practice Qi gong.
  • Pain. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong or having external Qi gong applied by a trained Qi gong practitioner can reduce pain in patients with chronic pain . However, this research is not very reliable.
  • Parkinson’s disease. Early research shows that Qi gong exercise does not significantly improve symptoms or function in people with advanced Parkinson’s disease.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Early research shows that Qi gong that is applied by a trained Qi gong practitioner does not decrease pain in women with PMS. But it might help other symptoms by a small amount.
  • Quality of life. Early research shows that Qi gong helps improve well-being and quality of life in people with various diseases.
  • Stress. Practicing Qi gong exercise might reduce feelings of stress in some people.
  • Stroke. Early research shows that Qi gong that is applied by a trained Qi gong practitioner might prevent stroke in people with high blood pressure.
  • Fatigue.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Weight loss maintenance.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of Qi gong for these uses.

“Qi” means “vital energy” or “life force” and “gong” means “work” or “discipline.” So, “Qi gong” can be translated to mean “energy work.”

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that disease is caused by a blockage or unbalanced energy flow in the body. Like many therapies in traditional Chinese medicine, Qi gong is thought to help unblock or balance energy flow and help the body heal.

Several Qi gong exercises have been developed to specifically open the 12 energy channels or “meridians” in the body that are recognized in traditional Chinese medicine. Opening these channels allows Qi to flow throughout the body.

There are no known safety concerns. So far, no harmful side effects have been reported. Hoever, like any exercise, Qi Gong might cause muscle pain and tenderness. 

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of Qi gong during pregnancy and breast-feeding. If you are pregnant, check with your healthcare provider before starting Qi gong or any other exercise program.

It is not known if this treatment interacts with any medicines.

Before using this treatment, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

There are no known interactions with foods.

The appropriate or safe use of Qi gong depends on several factors such as the condition being treated or the person administering the treatment. Be sure to seek and follow relevant directions from your physician or other healthcare professional before using this treatment.

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