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 posttreatment 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. The mean TPC was reduced from 136.6 to 59.5 after EQT treatment; mean MPQ decreased from 27.0 to 7.2; mean FIQ from 70.1 to 37.3; and mean BDI from 24.3 to 8.3 (all p < 0.01). Many subjects reported reductions in other FMS symptoms, 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 EQT resulting in complete recovery for some FMS patients suggests that TCM 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.