Qi Therapy as an Intervention to Reduce Chronic Pain and to Enhance Mood in Elderly Subjects: A Pilot Study

Qi Therapy as an Intervention to Reduce Chronic Pain and to Enhance Mood in Elderly Subjects: A Pilot Study

American Journal of Chinese Medicine, Spring, 2001 by Myeong Soo Lee, Kyung-Hee Yang, Hwa Jeong Huh, Hyun Wook Ryu Kim, Hoon, Ho-Sub Lee, Hun-Taeg Chung

Abstract: Qi therapy (or external Qi) is an oriental complementary therapy preventing, curing disease and strengthens health and improving the human potentiality through regulation of body. It is increasingly being used to improve the quality of life, but there is little direct evidence of its efficacy. This study assessed the effects of Qi therapy (QT) on reducing pain and enhancing mood states in elderly subjects with chronic pain. We studied 40 elderly participants with chronic pain, who were randomly allocated to receive QT (n=20) or standard care (n=20). The experimental group receives Qi therapy twice a week for 2 weeks (total 4 times), and control group received general care at the same time and the same amount of duration. We measured pain level and Profile of Mood State (POMS) to explore participants’ response to Qi therapy. There was a significant reduction in pain (p [is less than] 0.0001) after QT and an improved positive mood state (p [is less than] 0.0001). These findings suggest that Qi therapy may have a role in helping the elderly to cope with their pain and mood disturbances.

The growing number of elderly in both Western and Eastern societies has increased the concern about the promotion and maintenance of health and the prevention of illness. The elderly generally confronts decreasing physical strength, mental vigor or vitality as part of aging process. They experience, as well, at least one disease that is accompanied by chronic pain through physiological changes that occur with aging. Estimates from a more recent survey indicate that 80% of community-dwelling elderly suffer from chronic pain problems in Korea. Seventy-two percents of the elderly adults had low back pain, musculoskeletal pain and 69.8% of them had shoulder pain (Yang, 1995).

For pain control, both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic approaches can be useful. Nonpharmacologic interventions, used in combination with pharmacologic agents, results in more effective pain control, less reliance on medications, fewer side effects, and less clinical impairment (Mobily, 1994). While pharmacological treatments are appropriately the central component of chronic pain management, the under-utilization of effective nonpharmacological strategies (NPS) may contribute to the problem of pain and suffering among elderly patients. Chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, and behavioral medicine techniques such as meditation and relaxation training have been used widely in clinical practice (Turner et al., 1982a; 1982b; Turner, 1982c; Turk et al., 1979; Kabat-Zinn et al., 1985; Gordon et al., 1998).

In Asia, medical Qigong as a traditional complementary intervention has been used for preventing and curing disease, strengthen health and improving human potentiality through regulation. Medical Qigong is divided into two parts: internal and external. Internal Qi is developed by individual Qi-training (Qigong) (Sancier, 1996). When Qigong practitioners become sufficiently skilled, they can emit external Qi (perform Qi therapy) for the purpose of healing another person (ChunJon Foundation, 1997).

According to traditional Chinese ideas, chronic pain is considered to be a disturbance of the circulation of Qi or disharmony and depletion in the supply of Qi (Fujikawa, 1934; Taylor et al., 1990). This blockage, stagnation, imbalance, or change in the pattern or organization of Qi results in diseases. This disruption can be evidenced by such symptoms as pain, stiffness, roughness, change in temperature, or discoloration of the skin. Qi therapy may entail a restoring, enhancing, renewing, rejuvenating, revitalizing, or replenishing process by the self as well as by others to attain harmony and balance.

Although neither the Qi-therapy itself nor the mechanism of its effects is understandable or explainable within any paradigm of modern medical science, its effects on the human body in fact appear and are amazing (Agishi, 1998). In Korea, Qi therapy is increasingly being used as the intervention that could be benefited in reducing many negative symptoms, especially pain, but there is little scientific evidence of its efficacy. Therefore this study was designed to investigate the effects of Qi therapy on pain reduction and mood improvement in elderly patients with chronic pain.

Subjects and Methods


The study was conducted on forty elderly subjects with chronic pain–arthralgia, low back pain, and neuralgia in Iksan, Korea. Subjects had no severe cognitive impairment like dementia or delirium. Subjects were recruited from the community senior center. They were randomized into a Qi therapy group (n=20) which received Qi therapy and a control group (n=20) by a secretary who did not know the experimental procedures. The study received institutional approval from the Human Investigation Committee, and administrative approval from the facility before approaching patients/residents to obtain written consent. All subjects agreed to participate in the study and signed an informed consent form from the Human Subjects Review Board in Wonkwang University Hospital and School of Medicine.

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