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.
Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany

BACKGROUND:
The value of qigong in the treatment of chronic low back pain is unclear. In a randomized controlled trial, we evaluated whether qigong is non-inferior to exercise therapy in patients with chronic low back pain.

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.

CONCLUSIONS:
Qigong was not proven to be non-inferior to exercise therapy in the treatment of chronic low back pain. Its role in the prevention of chronic low back pain might be addressed in further studies.

Source: Qigong Institute