Qualitative analysis of a controlled trial of qigong for fibromyalgia: advancing understanding of an emerging health practice

J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Aug;20(8):606-17. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0348. Epub 2014 Jul 29.


Objectives: A randomized controlled trial (RCT) and an extension trial of qigong (Chaoyi Fanhuan qigong [CFQ]) in patients with fibromyalgia were recently completed. In the present study, a qualitative analysis of comments from the RCT was undertaken using motivation and amount of practice to determine whether initial experiences provided information relevant to outcomes.

Intervention: Participants in the RCT received instruction in qigong (level 1 CFQ), practiced 45 min/day for 8 weeks and continued practice to 6 months; open-ended qualitative comments on experiences were invited at 8 weeks and 4 and 6 months. Extension trial participants received further instruction (level 2 CFQ) and practiced regularly for 8 weeks-6 months. Comments from the original RCT were considered as narratives for the extension trial subgroup (n=20) and thematically, according to amount of practice, for all participants who completed the RCT (n=73).

Results: Narrative comments from the RCT for those who completed the extension trial (n=13) and those who withdrew from that trial (n=7) were considered separately. Participants reporting benefits within the first 8 weeks were more likely to maintain practice and report continued benefits at 4-6 months than those who withdrew from the trial. Thematic comments for all who completed the RCT (n=73) were considered in relation to amount of practice (per protocol, intermediate, minimal). Participants who practiced per protocol during the initial 8 weeks (≥5 hours/wk) were more likely to maintain practice over 4-6 months and to report beneficial health effects from qigong.

Conclusions: This retrospective qualitative analysis of information collected in an RCT of qigong for fibromyalgia indicates that favorable initial experiences with the practice over 8 weeks predispose to continued practice and more health effects. Future individual trials and meta-analyses of qigong will need to attend to the amount, and potentially quality, of practice undertaken in considering trial outcomes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration
  • Qigong*
  • Retrospective Studies