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 high blood pressure, back pain, and tiredness in people with cancer. It is also used for other types of pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and many other conditions, but there’s no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
Possibly Effective for …
- Back pain. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might help to improve low back pain. But Qi gong doesn’t seem to be better than other exercises made specifically for back pain.
- Tiredness in people with 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 Make a Determination for …
- A type of arthritis that mainly affects the spine (ankylosing spondylitis). Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might reduce fatigue and stiffness in people with this condition.
- Asthma. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might help lung function and prevent lung infections in people with asthma.
- Irregular heartbeat (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.
- Cancer. Early research suggests that practicing medical Qi gong does not improve quality of life or stomach problems in people with cancer.
- Damage to the immune system caused by cancer drug treatment. Early research suggests that practicing Qi gong might help the immune system recover faster after cancer treatment.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might help reduce fatigue, anxiety, and depression in people with this condition.
- A lung disease that makes it harder to breathe (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD). Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might help people with COPD walk farther. It might also help to improve their breathing.
- Cocaine use disorder. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong does not seem to reduce cravings in people with this condition.
- Limb pain that usually occurs after an injury (complex regional pain syndrome). Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might decrease pain and anxiety in people with this condition.
- Depression. Early research shows that Qi gong might improve symptoms of major depression in adults. It might also help with less severe depression in older adults.
- 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.
- Swelling (inflammation) of the stomach (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.
- Symptoms of menopause. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might help to improve chronic low back pain.
- A group of inherited disorders that cause muscle weakness and muscle loss (muscular dystrophy). Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might make people with muscular dystrophy feel better about their health. But 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.
- Withdrawal from heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong and receiving qi adjustments for 10 days can decrease withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse in people addicted to heroin. Qi gong might also help reduce anxiety.
- Osteoarthritis. Early research shows that practicing Baduanjin Qi gong might improve pain, stiffness, and function in people with knee osteoarthritis.
- Weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis). Some research shows that middle-aged women who practice Baduanjin Qi gong don’t lose as much bone mass as other women.
- Chronic pain. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong can reduce pain in patients with chronic pain. But this research is not very reliable.
- Parkinson disease. Early research shows that Qi gong seems to improve movement, walking, and balance in people with Parkinson disease. But it doesn’t seem to be better than other exercises like walking and cycling.
- Physical performance in elderly adults. Early research shows that practicing Qi gong might improve fitness, balance, and coordination in older people with heart 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. Qi gong might also improve quality of life in people recovering from stroke.
- A sleep disorder in which people temporarily stop breathing while asleep (sleep apnea).
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Weight loss maintenance.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of Qi gong for these uses.
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.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if Qi gong is safe when pregnant or breast-feeding. If you are pregnant, check with your healthcare provider before starting Qi gong or any other exercise program.
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