Qigong (also referred to as "qi gong" and "chi kung") is a healing system long used in traditional Chinese medicine. Proponents claim that qigong can enhance health by stimulating the flow of vital energy (or "chi").
How is Qigong Used for Health Purposes?
Qigong takes two main forms: internal qigong (a combination of meditation, movement, and breathing exercises) and external qigong (in which a trained qigong master uses his or her own chi to promote healing in the patient). Tai chi, another form of qigong, is a gentle martial art often used to reduce stress and aid in treatment of various health conditions (such as arthritis and anxiety).
The Science Behind the Health Benefits of Qigong
While research on qigong is fairly limited, a number of studies suggest that qigong may benefit people with certain health problems. Here's a look at several findings from the available research:
1) Chronic Pain
External qigong therapy may be somewhat useful for pain management, according to a 2007 research review published in the Journal of Pain. In their analysis of five clinical trials, the review's authors found that patients receiving external qigong therapy experienced greater improvements in chronic pain (compared to those assigned to control groups).
For a 2009 report from Complementary Therapies in Medicine, investigators sized up nine clinical trials on the use of qigong among people with type 2 diabetes. Although some trials showed that qigong may have positive effects on insulin sensitivity and several other factors, the review's authors concluded that there is not enough evidence to suggest that qigong is effective in treatment of diabetes.
3) High Blood Pressure
Some research shows that qigong may help lower your blood pressure, according to a 2007 report from the Journal of Hypertension. Reviewing 12 clinical trials, the report's authors found "some encouraging evidence" that qigong may help reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number on a blood pressure reading). However, the authors caution that most of the reviewed studies were of poor quality.
Using Qi Gong for Health
Although it's too soon to recommend qigong in treatment of any health condition, practicing qigong might help reduce your stress and improve your quality of life. If you're interested in practicing qigong, talk to your doctor about finding a qualified practitioner or training program.
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