Qigong versus exercise therapy for chronic low back pain in adults--a randomized controlled non-inferiority trial

Eur J Pain. 2015 Jan;19(1):123-31. doi: 10.1002/ejp.529. Epub 2014 Jun 5.


Background: The value of qigong in the treatment of chronic low back pain is unclear. In a randomized controlled trial, we evaluated whether qigong is non-inferior to exercise therapy in patients with chronic low back pain.

Methods: German outpatients (aged 46.7 ± 10.4) with chronic low back pain [mean visual analogue scale (VAS), 53.9 ± 12.5 mm] were enrolled and randomly allocated in a 1:1 ratio to receive either qigong (64 patients, 12 sessions with 1 × 90 min/week over 3 months) or exercise therapy (63 patients, 12 sessions 1 × 60 min/week). The primary outcome measure was the average pain intensity over the last 7 days on a VAS (0-100 mm, 0 = no pain, 100 = worst imaginable pain, non-inferiority margin = 5 mm) after 3 months. Follow-up was measured after 6 and 12 months.

Results: The mean adjusted low back pain intensity after 3 months was 34.8 mm [95% confidence interval (CI) 29.5; 40.2] in the qigong group and 33.1 mm (95% CI 27.7; 38.4) in the exercise group. Non-inferiority of the qigong group compared with the exercise group failed to show statistical significance (p = 0.204). In both groups, 10 patients reported suspected adverse reactions (e.g., muscle soreness, dizziness, pain) the total number was comparable in both groups (qigong n = 40, exercise n = 44).

Conclusions: Qigong was not proven to be non-inferior to exercise therapy in the treatment of chronic low back pain. Its role in the prevention of chronic low back pain might be addressed in further studies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Qigong*
  • Treatment Outcome