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

Author: Blödt S1, Pach D, Kaster T, Lüdke R, Reishauer A, Witt CM.
1(1) Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany.
Conference/Journal: J Altern Complement Med.
Date published: 2014 May
Other: Volume ID: 20 , Issue ID: 5 , Pages: A52 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.5135.abstract. , Word Count: 263

PMID: 24805633

Study Design. Randomized controlled trial.

Objective. To evaluate whether qigong is more effective than no treatment and not inferior to exercise therapy.

Summary of Background Data. Lifetime prevalence of chronic neck pain is close to 50%. Qigong is often used by patients, although, the evidence is still unclear.

Methods. Patients (aged 20–60 years) with chronic neck pain (visual analog scale, VAS ≥40 mm) were randomized to 1) qigong or 2) exercise therapy (18 sessions over 6 months) or 3) waiting list (no treatment). At baseline and after 3 and 6 months, patients completed standardized questionnaires assessing neck pain (VAS), neck pain and disability, and quality of life (Short Form SF-36 questionnaire, SF-36). The primary endpoint was average pain in the last 7 days on VAS at 6-month follow-up. Statistical analysis included generalized estimation equation models adjusted for baseline values and patient expectation.

Results. A total of 123 patients (aged 46 ± 11 years, 88% women) suffering from chronic neck pain for 3.2 (SD ± 1.6) years were included. After 6 months, a significant difference was seen between the qigong and waiting list control groups (VAS mean difference: −14 mm [95% CI = −23.1 to −5.4], P = 0.002). Mean improvements in the exercise group were comparable to those in the qigong group (difference between groups −0.7 mm [CI = −9.1 to 7.7]) but failed to show statistical significance (P = 0.092). Neck pain and disability, and SF-36 results also yielded superiority of qigong over no treatment and similar results in the qigong and exercise therapy groups.

Conclusion. Qigong was more effective than no treatment in patients with chronic neck pain. Further studies could be designed without waiting list control and should use a larger sample to clarify the value of qigong compared to exercise therapy.