Researchers investigated the effects of Qigong on pain using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) (Yu et al., 2007). They examined four male Qigong masters who had more than 30-year experience of Qigong practice. The researchers observed the change of brain functions via the peripheral pain stimulation, before and after Qigong practicing. They also monitored the heart and respiration rates.
The study found that before the Qigong practice, the brain areas including the cigulate cortex, the thalamus, and the cerebellum were in active conditions (Yu et al., 2007). The levels of such activations reduced after the Qigong practice. The SII-insula area was activated in the two conditions, and the response amplitude in the state of Qigong was greater than that before the Qigong practice.
In another study, researchers in Sweden tested the effects of a seven-week Qigong training on Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS). A total of 57 female patients with FMS were involved in the trial (Haak and Scott, 2008).
The researchers collected data before and after the intervention, and at 4-month follow-up for the experimental and control groups (Haak and Scott, 2008). They observed remarkable improvements among the training group in various aspects of pain and stress. After 4 months of the training, most of the effects were kept or improved. More than 90% of the participants completed the training and was satisfied, which meant that the Qigong training had great potential.
These findings indicate that Qigong has good effects on relieving pain and FMS, probably by leading to functional changes of the brain activities. Such results suggest that Qigong interventions could be a helpful adjuvant to conventional treatment for pain and FMS. More studies are needed to find out the mechanisms of Qigong.
Haak, T. and Scott, B. (2008) The effect of Qigong on fibromyalgia (FMS): a controlled randomized study. Disabil Rehabil 30, 625-633.
Yu, W. L., Li, X. Q., et al. (2007) fMRI study of pain reaction in the brain under state of “Qigong”. Am J Chin Med 35, 937-945.