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Qigong Exercise for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

This report is greatly encouraging for all qigong practitioners at all levels. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome [CFS] is widespread, under-studied, under-reported and, as of yet, has no cure. This study, however, provides compelling evidence that qigong can be an effective remedy to this debilitating condition.

The most serious CFS symptoms include impaired memory, poor concentration, sleep disturbance and insomnia, anxiety and depression. Stress is believed to be a major factor. Patients report that CFS contributes to poor work performance and adverse effect on personal relationships. It may even accelerate aging.

At present, there is no known remedy in Western medicine. There has been some indication that an appropriate exercise regimen can be helpful.

This study, however, provides strong evidence that qigong can be utilized as a far more effective remedy. Two forms of qigong were utilized: Wu Xing Ping Heng Gong Qigong and Badjanjin [Eight Pieces of Brocade].

The effects were similar, as were the criteria for judging effectiveness:

1. Telomerase activity and adiponectin for all participants at three time points;

2. PSQI score for sleep quality;

3. Documenting and assessing the quality and quantity of qigong practice in the study.  

One note of interest is that there was overwhelming response to the call for volunteers for this study, the great majority of whom were women. There is clearly a great, widespread need for treatment of this condition. As noted, sleep difficulties, muscle pain, impaired memory or concentration, anxiety and depression were all among the most common symptoms noted.

Both qigong practices provided “significant” evidence for their effectiveness in addressing those and other symptoms. One observation worth noting is that in both practices, the quantity of qigong practice—rather than the quality of it—was indicated by the findings to be critical.

This was the first large-scale study on the effect of qigong on sleep quality in persons with CFS. As always, questions can be raised about the methodology of the study, and its authors do not hesitate to recommend further, more refined study, correcting for deficiencies/issues in the study.

What is of note, however, for all qigong practitioners, medical and otherwise, is that a) CFS is widespread and at present, lacks any decisive treatment, and b) this study provides compelling evidence that qigong may well provide decisive treatment.

This study, therefore, can be taken as an opportunity for the NQA to make a much wider appeal to the general public as far as the benefits of qigong practice are concerned.

Critique written by Chuck Garrettson on 29 Jan 2020


Qigong exercise for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2019;147:121-153. doi: 10.1016/bs.irn.2019.08.002.Chan JSM, Ng SM, Yuen LP, Chan CLW.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is often overlooked, has unclear etiology and no effective cure except some symptomatic treatments. Additionally, most people with CFS do not seek medical attention.

Qigong exercise, an ancient Eastern body-mind-spirit practice, has been long practiced in Chinese communities and may powerfully trigger the self-healing process.

Using full baseline data (n=1409), the average Hong Kong CFS respondent was found to be female, married, 42.5yo, highly educated and employed full-time, experiencing sleep disturbance (~95%), anxiety (>80%), and depressive symptoms (68%).

Here, we summarized our previous studies to evaluate the potential of Qigong as a complementary and alternative therapy for CFS. Two randomized controlled trials were conducted (RCT1 n1=137, RCT2 n2=150). In both trials, extensive online questionnaires allowed individuals with CFS-like illness (i.e., symptoms match CFS, yet without clinical confirmation) to be identified.

RCT1 included a 5-week intervention. The intervention in RCT2 was 8weeks. In RCT1 Qigong group had reduced fatigue (P<0.001) and depressive symptoms (P=0.002), and improved telomerase activity (P=0.029). An effective practice regimen was identified (≥3 days/week, at ≥30min/session).

Methods were slightly adjusted for RCT2, which replicated RCT1 findings, and further documented improved subjective sleep quality (P=0.008) and adiponectin levels (P<0.05). A significant dose-response relationship was founded.

Thus, Qigong exercise should be recognized as a possible standalone therapy and self-management skill in CFS. Strategies are needed to increase motivation for regular practice and to explore its possibility of self-management skill in brain health. Further clarity would come from studies comparing Qigong with other physical exercises.

KEYWORDS: Adiponectin and brain health; Chronic fatigue syndrome; Psychological distress; Qigong exercise; Sleep disturbance; Telomerase activityPMID: 31607352 DOI: 10.1016/bs.irn.2019.08.002