The purpose of this post is to answer the following question about Qigong.

Describe the complementary treatment.

Qigong is considered a bodywork and energy therapy. It incorporates breath work, body movements as well as mental exercises. The body movements/physical activity and meditation are thought to create harmony between the body, mind, and spirit which facilitates the flow of ‘Qi’ (also known as chi) which is vital universal energy, and ‘gong’ which means cultivation or mastery. The goal is to achieve health through harmony between the qi aspects of yin and yang (Zhang et al., 2020).

Often yoga and qigong are compared. They do share some similarities like their origin being Eastern medicine-based. Both facilitate body and mind awareness as well as the incorporation of breathwork. However, they have some crucial differences, one being that yoga is faster and requires more movement while qigong is slower, gentler, and requires less movement. As such, patients need not be athletic to be able to perform qigong. It can be performed from a wheelchair and performed by even those with severe physical limitations (Zhang et al., 2020).

What is it?

Qigong is one modality of numerous types of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) believed to be at least 5,000 years old. It is a mind and body exercise and healing technique meant to cultivate awareness and control. Qigong has evolved over the centuries to include numerous exercises that include Dao Yin, Wu Qin Xi Qigong, Ba Duan Jin Qigong, Yi Jin Jing Qigong, Liu Zi Jue Qigong amongst others. During practice, one is required to have breath awareness, have a mantra, utilize sound to chant, and visualize. It has a focus on qi circulation, aesthetics, and moral values in the universe, within the spirit, and in all living matter (Bystritsky, 2021).

What are its proposed benefits?

There are numerous benefits attributed to qigong. One, qigong meditation requires an engagement of the mind as well as a focus on mental intention. Experts refer to it as a ‘moving meditation”. This promotes mindfulness, self-awareness, and self-control. Moreover, qigong movements promote flexibility, coordination, strength, balance as well as enhance the body’s natural blood circulation. Qigong breath work promotes oxygen circulation, relaxation (Zhang et al., 2020). Overall, qigong aims to achieve harmony of the mind, body, and spirit through both inward and outward focus. The Chinese believe that the disconnection of these three is the origin of sickness (Toneti et al., 2020). Overall, it has been said to decrease anxiety, depression, pain as well as improve sleep. Other experts taunt its ability to decrease blood pressure, limb edema, and fatigue, etc. (Eichler et al., 2021; Toneti et al., 2020).

Are there any risks?

There are no risks associated with qigong. Due to its slow focused movements that can be performed while standing, seated, or even laying down, it is safe for people with balance, gait, and mobility difficulties (Zhang et al., 2020)

Describe access to the treatment – where do you find it, what are its costs?

Due to advancements in technology, qigong is accessible to anyone with a smart device because there are introduction videos for beginners, intermediate as well as advanced practitioners online through qigong experts or even through the Qigong Institute. Alternatively, there are DVDs available for purchase online or in bookstores for purchase. Also, there is an international directory of qigong teachers around the world through the qigong institute. For people interested in practicing, the availability of teachers/classes/studios can be found online on sites like the American Tai Chi and Qigong Association, qigong awareness (offers an online business directory), the National Qi gong association amongst others.

Is there evidence for your treatment? Expert opinion? If so, what is it?

There is evidence-based research that shows the effectiveness of qigong. For example, a clinical study was conducted on patients with cardiac disease who practiced qigong for eight, 20-minute sessions and patients who did not. Those that practiced qigong reported decreased anxiety measure by the 12-item general health questionnaire. The same results were reported in a clinical trial of patients with heroin dependence undergoing supervised detox. The patients practicing qigong not only had reduced anxiety levels but had a faster decrease in withdrawal symptoms compared to the other group (Bystritsky, 2021). Similarly, a meta-analysis of 27 trials were conducted on cancer patients with sleep disturbance. Those patients practicing therapies like qigong had improved sleep outcomes compared to the ones who were not (Eichler, 2021). Moreover, research has linked qigong to improved breathing and overall outcomes in COPD patients, patients with depression, chronic pain, and even Parkinson’s disorder. Notably, the positivity of the outcomes was correlated to practice duration, frequency, and intensity (Toneti et al., 2020).

Based on your findings would you recommend this treatment? If yes, do you have population-specific recommendations?

I would recommend qigong to my patients because it is versatile and there are different techniques with variations in intensity and is thus suitable for anyone across the lifespan. Besides, qigong is effective in disease prevention, health promotion, as well as healing through a connection of body and mind. Moreover, it has been shown to improve breathing, circulation, cognition, focus, concentration and reduce anxiety and stress (Toneti et al., 2020; Zhang et al., 2020).

That said, I do think it is especially useful to older patients with physical and cognitive deficits because it is slow, gentle, and easy to grasp and follow and techniques can be adapted to suit thepatient. It would also be suitable for patients with mood and anxiety disorders for relaxation.

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Bystritsky, A. (2021, February 19). UpToDate complementary-and-alternative-treatments-for-anxiety-symptoms-and-disorders-physical-cognitive-and-spiritual-interventions?search=qigong&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~16&usage_type=default&display_rank=1#H5264310

Eichler, A. F., Finlay, G., & Hoppin, A. G. (2021, January 29). UpToDatehttps://www. contents/whats-new-in-sleep-medicine?search=qigong&source=search_result &selectedTitle =10~16 &usage_type=default&display_rank=10

Toneti, B. F., Barbosa, R. F. M., Mano, L. Y., Sawada, L. O., Oliveira, I. G. de, & Sawada, N. O. (2020). Benefits of Qigong as an integrative and complementary practice for health: a systematic review. Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem28, e3317.

Zhang, Y.-P., Hu, R.-X., Han, M., Lai, B.-Y., Liang, S.-B., Chen, B.-J., Robinson, N., Chen, K., & Liu, J.-P. (2020). Evidence Base of Clinical Studies on Qi Gong: A Bibliometric Analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine50.

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