Author: Wu Wen-hsien
Pain Management Center, 90 Bergen St. Suite 3400, Newark, NJ,
Conference/Journal: HealthInform: Essential Information on Alternative Health Care
Date published: 1999
Other: Volume ID: 5 , Issue ID: 1 , Pages: 5 , Special Notes: Wu, W.; Bandilla, E.; Ciccone, D.; Yang, J.; Cheng, S.; Carner, N.; Wu, Y.; Shen R. 'Effects of Qigong on Late-Stage Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.' Alternative Therapies (USA), 1999. , Word Count: 413

Wen-hsien Wu, professor of anesthesiology/pain medicine and director of the led a team of researchers in exploring the possible benefits of the practice of the traditional Chinese discipline of qigong. Two qigong masters, Yi Wu and Ronger Shen, joined the team at the Newark Pain Management Center to provide 26 adult patients suffering from complex regional pain syndrome type I, CRPS-I, with qigong training.

CRPS-I often follows minor tissue or nerve injury and involves the sympathetic nervous system and includes such symptoms as swelling, limited range of motion and burning pain. The authors explain: 'Because CRPS-I is often associated with minor traumatic injury, its victims tend to be young. It has been estimated that approximately 5% of those who develop acute symptoms of CRPS-I go on to develop a late-stage form of the disorder that is sympathetically independent.'

The team designed its trial to be placebo-controlled by teaching the experimental group genuine qigong instruction by true masters (Wu and Shen) and the control group false qigong instruction by a sham master. The three-week-long instruction included six 40-minute sessions. Participants then completed seven weeks of home exercise. Twenty-two patients completed the study.

The 10-week experiment's results were assessed through these measurements taken at weeks 1, 2, 3, 6 and 10: surface skin temperature (via thermography testing); range of motion (via goniometer); improvement of visual signs (swelling, mottling, dystoria, dystrophy, and muscle wasting); pain intensity (via Visual Analog Rating scale); medication use; behavior, including sleeping and resting (via Sickness Impact Profile); awakening at night by pain; mood (via Beck Depression Inventory); anxiety (via Cognitive-Somatic Anxiety Questionnaire).

Results: During the pre-training assessment, the experimental group showed more susceptibility to hypnotic suggestion. This interesting finding was controlled for using hypnotic suggestibility as a covariant.

The experimental group experienced a significant reduction in mean pain level, when compared with the control group. Of the true qigong group, 82% expressed less pain by the end of the first training session, versus 45% of the control group. And of the experimental group, 91% said they had a 'transient' decrease in pain during the sixth and last training session, versus 36% of the control group. Physical symptoms other than pain, for instance, swelling and range of movement, were unaffected in either group. However, 100% of the experimental group had a decline in anxiety, versus 70% of the control group.

Conclusion: 'By using a credible placebo to control for nonspecific treatment effects, it was found that qigong training resulted in a short-term reduction in pain intensity for those suffering from late-stage CRPS-I.'