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Qi Gong

 

Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified health care professional before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Related Terms

  • AST Chiro, Chan-Chuang qi-gong therapy, chi, Chi Gong, Chi Kung, Chinese medicine, Chun Do Su Bup, Daoyin, Daoyin-Tuna Qi gong, external Qi gong, Falun gong, hanyu pinyin, healing touch, hexiangzhuang (flying crane) Qi gong, imagery, internal Qi gong, meditation, Nei-Gong, Pa Tuan Jin, Pai Jer Tsuh Jih Gong, Qigong, Qi gong emitted external Qi (QEQ), Qi gong Waiqi, Qi gong Yangsheng, Qi gongizations, Reiki, tai chi, therapeutic touch, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), visualization, Wai Qi Fa Gong, walking Qi gong, Yan Jing Yi Shen Gong.
  • Not included in this review: Healing touch, guided imagery, meditation, Reiki, tai chi, therapeutic touch, and visualization. Separate Natural Standard monographs on these topics are available.

Background

  • Qi gong is an ancient type of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that has been used for thousands of years. There are many different styles of performing Qi gong. The two main types of Qi gong practice are internal Qi gong and external Qi gong. Internal Qi gong is a self-directed technique that involves the use of sounds, movements, and meditation. Internal Qi gong actively engages people in their own health and well-being and can be performed with or without the presence of a Master instructor. It may be practiced daily to promote health maintenance and disease prevention. External Qi gong, also known as qi emission, is performed by a Master using his or her hands on a patient with the aim to project qi for the purpose of healing.

Theory

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Qi gong is believed to be beneficial for three principal purposes: spiritual enlightenment, medical care, and martial arts/self-defense. Medical Qi gong can involve internal or external techniques and often includes five steps: meditation, cleansing, recharging/strengthening, circulating, and dispersing qi. Each step includes specific exercises, meditations, and sounds. Qi gong is intended to be harmonious with the natural rhythms of the environment and has been described as "a way of working with life energy."

Evidence

 

Uses based on scientific evidence 

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional.

Grade* 

High blood pressure 

Good evidence suggests that Qi gong, when used with conventional treatments, may be of benefit for high blood pressure. Initial research reports fewer deaths among people with high blood pressure who practice Qi gong. There is some evidence that internal Qi gong relaxation exercises may be safe for helping to control high blood pressure associated with pregnancy. Further research is warranted.

B 

Angina 

There is some evidence suggesting that Qi gong may be used in the treatment of angina (chest pain). However, further evidence is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Asthma 

Some research suggests that the regular practice of internal Qi gong over several months may improve breathing in asthma. Further research is needed to confirm these results.

C 

Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) 

There is some evidence supporting the use of external Qi gong together with standard therapies for blocked arteries. However, the available evidence is unclear. More studies would lead to a better understanding of this technique.

C 

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 

There is promising early evidence to support the use of internal Qi gong in the treatment of ADHD in children. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Autism 

Preliminary evidence suggests that Qi gong may be effective in treating young children with autism. Further studies are needed in this area before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Cancer 

Several studies suggest that Qi gong may benefit cancer patients. Additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Cardiovascular health 

Preliminary evidence suggests that Qi gong may be useful in the treatment of heart conditions. Additional high quality studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Cardiovascular rehabilitation 

Preliminary data suggests that Qi gong coupled with group support may improve functional quality of life for patients undergoing cardiovascular rehabilitation. Additional studies of the effect of Qi gong alone are needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Childhood growth promotion 

Children are capable of receiving instruction in internal Qi gong as a health promotion activity and it may have some behavioral benefits. However, it is unclear whether Qi gong can promote physical growth in children. More research is needed.

C 

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) 

Preliminary evidence suggests that practicing mindfulness meditation and/or Qi gong three times weekly for a year may contribute to improvement in overall health. Additional research on Qi gong alone is needed before a conclusion can be made on the use of this therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome.

C 

Chronic pain 

There is some evidence that internal Qi gong or externally applied Qi gong may be useful in the management of pain and anxiety. More evidence is needed in this area before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Complex regional pain syndrome 

There is some evidence that patients with complex regional pain syndrome might benefit from Qi gong instruction. However, more research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Detoxification 

Limited study suggests that Qi gong may aid in reducing the anxiety and withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin detoxification. Additional research is needed.

C 

Diabetes 

There is some evidence that patients with diabetes may benefit from Qi gong. More research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Fibromyalgia 

Scientific evidence regarding the usefulness of Qi gong in treating fibromyalgia is mixed. More research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Flu 

Traditional tai chi and Qi gong (TQ) practice has been shown to improve the immune response to influenza vaccine in older adults. Further study is needed to determine the effect of Qi gong alone.

C 

Gastritis 

Some evidence suggests that internal Qi gong may be useful in the treatment of gastritis. Further research is needed.

C 

Immune function 

Some evidence suggests that internal Qi gong may help in treating immune deficiencies. Further research is needed in this area.

C 

Kidney failure (chronic) 

Sufficient scientific evidence on the use of Qi gong to treat chronic kidney failure is lacking. Additional research is needed in this area.

C 

Leukopenia (chemotherapy-induced) 

Preliminary study suggests that Qi gong therapy may improve white blood cell count in breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy. Further study is warranted in this area.

C 

Muscular dystrophy 

Early evidence suggests that internal Qi gong practice may help slow the decline of health in muscular dystrophy patients. More research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Parkinson's disease 

There is promising early evidence suggesting that internal Qi gong may help in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. However, the evidence is unclear and further research is needed.

C 

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) 

Regular Qi gong therapy may help to reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Quality of life 

Qi gong may be beneficial for improving quality of life in cardiac and cancer patients. Further study is necessary to make a firm conclusion.

C 

Stress 

Preliminary study shows that Qi gong may be beneficial for relieving stress. Additional study is warranted in this area.

C 

 

*Key to grades: 

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;
B: Good scientific evidence for this use;
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;
D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).

For full grading rationale, click here.

Uses based on tradition or theory 

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional

Addiction, anti-aging, anxiety, back pain, blood thinner, breathing, congestive heart failure, depression, gastrointestinal disease, general health maintenance, headache, heart attack prevention, heart rate abnormalities, improved sleep, improved workplace efficiency, increased drug absorption, liver disease, mania, mental illnesses, multiple sclerosis, nerve disorders, osteoporosis, peripheral vascular disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychosis, stroke (prevention), suicide prevention, well-being.


Safety

Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

  • Qi gong is generally considered safe in most people when learned from a qualified instructor and practiced in moderation. In cases of potentially serious conditions, Qi gong should not be used in place of more proven therapies, and use of Qi gong should not cause delay in seeing an appropriate healthcare provider.
  • Qi gong may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Qi gong may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Qi gong may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs, herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Use cautiously in patients with pre existing psychoses or in vulnerable individuals without a psychiatric history.
  • Use cautiously in immune-compromised individuals as Qi gong has been shown to have immune effects.
  • Use cautiously in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to limited safety evidence.
  • Allergic skin reaction has been reported.
  • Abnormal psychosomatic responses or mental disorder may be induced.

Authors

  • This information is based on a professional level monograph edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Selected References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Creamer P, Singh BB, Hochberg MC, et al. Sustained improvement produced by nonpharmacologic intervention in fibromyalgia: results of a pilot study. Arthritis Care Res 2000;13(4):198-204.
  2. Eng ML, Lyons KE, Greene MS, et al. Open-label trial regarding the use of acupuncture and yin tui na in Parkinson's disease outpatients: a pilot study on efficacy, tolerability, and quality of life. J Altern Complement Med 2006 May;12(4):395-9.
  3. Hui PN, Wan M, Chan WK, et al. An evaluation of two behavioral rehabilitation programs, qi gong versus progressive relaxation, in improving the quality of life in cardiac patients. J Altern Complement Med 2006 May;12(4):373-8.
  4. Iwao M, Kajiyama S, Mori H, et al. Effects of qi gong walking on diabetic patients: a pilot study. J Altern Complement Med 1999;5(4):353-358.
  5. Jung MJ, Shin BC, Kim YS, et al. Is there any difference in the effects of Qi therapy (external Qi gong) with and without touching? A pilot study. Int J Neurosci 2006 Sep;116(9):1055-64.
  6. Lee TI, Chen HH, Yeh ML. Effects of chan-chuang qi gong on improving symptom and psychological distress in chemotherapy patients. Am J Chin Med 2006;34(1):37-46.
  7. Linder K, Svardsudd K. [Qi gong has a relieving effect on stress] Lakartidningen 2006;103(24-25):1942-5.
  8. Loh SH. Qi gong therapy in the treatment of metastatic colon cancer. Altern Ther Health Med 1999;5(4):111-112.
  9. Mayer M. Qi gong and hypertension: a critique of research. J Altern Complement Med 1999;5(4):371-382.
  10. Mehling WE, Hamel KA, Acree M, et al. Randomized, controlled trial of breath therapy for patients with chronic low-back pain. Altern Ther Health Med 2005;11(4):44-52.
  11. Morone NE, Greco CM. Mind-body interventions for chronic pain in older adults: a structured review. Pain Med 2007 May-Jun;8(4):359-75.
  12. Ospina MB, Bond K, Karkhaneh M, et al. Meditation practices for health: state of the research. Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep) 2007;(155):1-263.
  13. Pippa L, Manzoli L, Corti I, et al. Functional capacity after traditional Chinese medicine (qi gong) training in patients with chronic atrial fibrillation: a randomized controlled trial. Prev Cardiol 2007;10(1):22-5.
  14. Yang, Y., Verkuilen, J., Rosengren, K. S., Mariani, R. A., Reed, M., Grubisich, S. A., Woods, J. A., and Schlagal, B. Effects of a traditional Taiji/Qigong curriculum on older adults' immune response to influenza vaccine. Med.Sport Sci. 2008;52:64-76.
  15. Yeh ML, Lee TI, Chen HH, et al. The influences of Chan-Chuang qi-gong therapy on complete blood cell counts in breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy. Cancer Nurs 2006;29(2):149-55.
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