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A Pilot Study of External Qigong Therapy for Patients with Fibromyalgia

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By KW Chen, et al • • December 6, 2006

Journal: Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2006 Nov;12(9):851-856. Authors: Chen KW, Hassett AL, Hou F, Staller J, Lichtbroun AS. Department of Psychiatry, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey; Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

[Note: External qigong ("breath skill") is generally defined as "a set of breathing and movement exercises, with possible benefits to health through stress reduction and exercise."] PMID: 17109575

Objectives: Although qigong is an important part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) based on a philosophy similar to acupuncture, few studies of qigong exist in the Western medicine literature. To evaluate qigong therapy as a modality in treating chronic pain conditions such as Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), we report a pilot trial of 10 women with severe FMS who experienced significant improvement after external qigong therapy (EQT).

Design: Ten patients with FMS completed five to seven sessions of EQT over 3 weeks with pre- and post-treatment assessment and a 3-month follow-up. Each treatment lasted approximately 40 minutes. Outcome measures: Tender point count (TPC) and Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) were the primary measures. McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), anxiety, and self-efficacy were the secondary outcomes.

Results: Subjects demonstrated improvement in functioning, pain, and other symptoms.
n The mean tender point count was reduced from 136.6 to 59.5 after external quigong therapy treatment;
n Mean McGill Pain Questionnaire score improved from 27.0 to 7.2;
n Mean Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire score decreased from 70.1 to 37.3; and mean Beck Depression Inventory score improved from 24.3 to 8.3 (all p < 0.01).
n Many subjects reported reductions in other FMS symptoms,
n And two reported they were completely symptom-free. Results from the 3-month follow-up indicated some slight rebound from the post-treatment measures, but still much better than those observed at baseline.

Conclusions: Treatment with external qigong therapy resulting in complete recovery for some FMS patients suggests that traditional Chinese medicine may be very effective for treating pain and the multiplicity of symptoms associated with FMS. Larger controlled trials of this promising intervention are urgently needed.

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