The objective of this systematic review was to assess the evidence for the effectiveness of internal qigong as a treatment option for pain conditions. Nineteen databases were searched through to February 2009. Controlled clinical trials testing internal qigong in patients with pain of any origin assessing clinical outcome measures were considered. Trials using any type of internal qigong and control intervention were included. The selection of studies, data extraction, and validation were performed independently by 2 reviewers. Four randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and 3 controlled clinical trials met all inclusion criteria. One RCT suggested no significant difference for low back pain compared with electromyographic biofeedback. Two RCTs failed to show effects of internal qigong in neck pain compared with exercise therapy and waiting list control. One RCT suggested that qigong is inferior to aerobic exercise in patients with fibromyalgia. There are few RCTs testing the effectiveness of internal qigong in the management of pain conditions. Collectively, the existing trial evidence is not convincing enough to suggest that internal qigong is an effective modality for pain management.
Perspective: This review of controlled clinical trials focused on the effects of internal qigong, a self-directed energy healing intervention involving movement and meditation. Collectively, the existing trial evidence is not convincing enough to suggest that internal qigong is an effective modality for pain management. Future studies should be of high quality with particular emphasis on designing an adequate control intervention.