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Qigong for Low Back Pain

This article is a review of the current literature on the effectiveness of treating lower back pain via MMBI: Movement Based Mind-Body Interventions. Rigorous screening was conducted in choosing which articles to consider.

At present, 80% of American adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. No thoroughly effective treatment exists, though research does exist as to the varying effectiveness of certain exercises.

Otherwise, all that is currently offered is either pain medications [oftentimes opioids], surgery, and/or injections.

This article, however, reports MMBI can not only reduce back pain, but also the psychological stress that often times accompanies it, especially with chronic back pain patients. The majority of articles reviewed had to do with yoga, which did show clear effectiveness in relieving this condition. Both tai chi and qigong also showed promising results, but more research needs to be conducted on both in order to be more conclusive.

Summary written by Dr. Charles Garrettson, George Mason University


A Narrative Review of Movement-Based Mind-Body Interventions: Effects of Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong for Back Pain Patients.

Holist Nurs Pract. 2020 Jan/Feb;34(1):3-23. doi: 10.1097/HNP.0000000000000360.Park J, Krause-Parello CA, Barnes CM.

This narrative literature review evaluated the effects of movement-based mind-body interventions (MMBIs; yoga, tai chi, and qigong) on low back pain. A search of databases was conducted to identify relevant studies. Thirty-two articles met inclusion criteria and were included for this narrative review.

Of the reviewed studies, the highest number focused on yoga intervention (n = 25), 4 focused on qigong, and 3 focused on tai chi in managing back pain.

The selected articles showed MMBI to be effective for treatment of low back pain, reporting positive outcomes such as reduction in pain or psychological distress (eg, depression and anxiety), and improved functional ability. However, little is known about the effects of MMBI, in particular qigong and tai chi.

More clinical trials are needed to determine how to reduce back pain, improve physical function, and minimize behavioral and psychological symptoms associated with low back pain. Nurse practitioners may introduce such mind-body interventions for managing pain, especially for patients at high risk for adverse effects from pharmacological treatment, and refer them to a yoga therapist, tai-chi instructor, or qigong instructor.

PMID: 31725096 DOI: 10.1097/HNP.0000000000000360