Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain and fatigue. The cause of fibromyalgia is not clear, but it appears that the condition amplifies pain signals by affecting how the brain processes signals. There are some western medicines and therapies that may help with the symptoms, but many people with the condition claim that they are receiving no benefit and have to live with the pain.
There was a recent study published that a particular type of qigong could help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia. In the study, 100 participants were randomly assigned to either the study group or the control group. For the study group, qigong training was given over 3 days and was followed by weekly follow-up sessions for 8 weeks. The participants were asked to practice for 45 to 60 minutes per day during the study.
Participants reported improvement in all measured outcomes: pain, impact, sleep, physical function, and mental function. These outcomes continued to the end of the study at six months.
Qigong (pronounced chee gung) is two words from the Chinese language. The word qi is often translated as “internal energy”, but this doesn’t really seem to be a very good translation. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it primarily refers to connecting different parts of our body. It also refers to communication where our mind, or intention, moves our bodies. Gong can be translated as exercises or work done on a regular basis. So qi gong can be used to mean “exercises that enhance our vital energy and connectedness”.
There are thousands of qigong exercises for everything from curing illnesses to preventive medicine. This study used a type of qigong called Chaoyi Fanhuan Qigong (CFQ). According to the study,
Qigong training consisted of an initial workshop conducted over three consecutive half-days by a qualified CFQ instructor. Participants received training in level 1 CFQ; this consisted of instruction in seven key movements known as "the hexagram" and ancillary exercises. Hexagram movements consist of choreographed movements that emphasize softness, relaxation, downward releases and full body distribution of "qi".
The follow-up at 4 months and at 6 months indicated that the participants that maintained their CFQ practice for at least 45 minutes per day were able to maintain the improvements. Participants that practiced significantly less reported less benefit after the end of the practice training.
The complete study can be read here:
A Randomized Controlled Trial of Qigong for Fibromyalgia
Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2012 Aug 3;14(4): R178. By Lynch M, Sawynok J, Hiew C, Marcon D.
© 2012 Eric Borreson