Study design: A randomized, controlled, multicenter trial: 1-year follow-up.
Objective: To compare the effectiveness of qigong and exercise therapy in subjects with long-term nonspecific neck pain.
Summary of background data: The evidence for the benefit of treatment programs focusing on persons with long-term, nonspecific neck pain is conflicting. Several studies have shown support for exercise therapy, but the efficacy of qigong has not been scientifically evaluated.
Methods: A total of 122 patients were randomly assigned to receive either qigong (n = 60) or exercise therapy (n = 62). Most of them were women (70%), and the mean age was 44 years. A maximum of 12 treatments were given over a period of 3 months. Neck pain frequency and intensity, neck disability (NDI), grip strength, and cervical range of motion were recorded before and immediately after, at 6 months, and at 12 months after the treatment period. Changes in outcome variables were analyzed and dichotomized as improved or unchanged/deteriorated.
Results: Clinical and demographic characteristics were similar among groups at baseline. No differences were found between the 2 interventions: qigong and exercise therapy. Both groups significantly improved immediately after treatment and this was maintained at the 6- and 12-month follow-ups in 5 of 8 outcome variables: average neck pain in the most recent week, current neck pain (with exception for immediately after treatment period), neck pain diary, NDI, and cervical range of motion in rotation.
Conclusion: These results indicate that treatments including supervised qigong or exercise therapy resulting in reduced pain and disability can be recommended for persons with long-term nonspecific neck pain.