Written by Rachel Jolliffe, Edzard Ernst and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated March 11, 2015

Qigong

Abstract and key points

  • Qigong is a modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
  • Proponents claim that it improves health by regulating the flow of qi energy.
  • Several clinical trials have tested its effectiveness usually with encouraging results.
  • The most consistent evidence is for improvements in immune function, fatigue and quality of life.
  • The quality of these studies is generally poor.
  • No serious safety concerns are known.

Qigong is an ancient Chinese therapy aimed at regulating the flow of “vital energy” in the body. It is mainly used as a symptomatic treatment for various types of complaints including those caused by cancer or cancer treatments.

In-vitro and preclinical studies have generated encouraging findings providing evidence that external qigong induces apoptosis and inhibition of cancer cell invasion. Clinical trials have also yielded mostly promising results but their methodological quality is generally poor. A cause-effect relationship between the intervention and the outcome remains therefore undocumented.

There are no major safety concerns related to qigong.

Citation Rachel Jolliffe, Edzard Ernst, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Qigong [online document]. http://ws.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Qigong. March 11, 2015.

References

  1. Kemp CA. Qigong as a therapeutic intervention with older adults. J Holist Nurs 2004; 22: 351-73.
  2. Yan X, Chen H, Jiang H, Zhang C, Hu D, Want J et al. External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong differentially regulates the Akt and extracellular signal-regulated kinase pathways and is cytotoxic to cancer cells but not to normal cells. Int J Biochem & Cell Biol 2006; 38: 2102-13.
  3. Yan X, Shen H, Jiang H, Hu D, Zhang C, Wang J et al. External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong induces apoptosis and inhibits migration and invasion of estrogen-independent breast cancer cells through suppression of Akt/NF-êB signalling. Cell Physiol Biochem 2010; 25: 263-70.
  4. Yan X, Li F, Dozmorov I, Frank MB, Dao M, Centola M et al. External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong induces cell death and gene expression alterations promoting apoptosis and inhibiting proliferation, migration and glucose metabolism in small-cell lung cancer cells. Mol Cell Biochem 2012; 363: 245-55
  5. Yan X, H Shen, H Jiang, D Hu, J Wang and X Wu. External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong inhibits activation of Akt, Erk1/2 and NF-kB and induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in colorectal cancer cells. Cell Physiol Biochem 2013; 31: 113-22.
  6. Lei X-T, Bi A-H, Zhang Z-X, Cheng Z-Y. The antitumor effects of qigong-emitted external qi and its influence on the immunologic functions of tumor-bearing mice. J Tongji Med Univ 1991; 11: 253-6.
  7. M-L, Lee T-I, Chen H-H, Chao T-Y. The influences of Chan-Chuang Qi-gong therapy on complete blood cell counts in breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy. Cancer Nurs 2006; 29: 149-55.
  8. Skoglund L, Josephson M, Wahlstedt K, Lampa E, Norback D. Qigong training and effects on stress, neck-shoulder pain and life quality in a computerised office environment. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2011; 17: 54-7.
  9. Biesinger E, Kipman U, Schatz S, Langguth B. Qigong for the treatment of tinnitus: a prospective randomized controlled study. J Psychosom Res 2010; 69: 299-304.
  10. Terjestam Y, Jouper J, Johansson C. Effects of scheduled qigong exercise on pupils' well-being, self-image, distress and stress. J Altern Complement Med 2010; 16: 939-44.
  11. Stenlund T, Birgander LS, Lindahl B, Nilsson L, Ahlgren C. Effects of qigong in patients with burnout: a randomized controlled trial. J Rehabil Med 2009; 41: 761-7.
  12. Guo X, Zhou B, Nishimura T, Teramukai S, Fukushima M. Clinical effect of qigong practice on essential hypertension: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Altern Complement Med 2008; 14: 27-37.
  13. Chow YW, Tsang HW. Biopsychosocial effects of qigong as a mindful exercise for people with anxiety disorders: a speculative review. J Altern Comp Med 2007; 13: 831-9.
  14. Jahnke RA, Larkey LK, Rogers C. Dissemination and benefits of a replicable Tai Chi and Qigong program for older adults. Geriatr Nurs 2010; 31: 272-80.
  15. Zeng Y, T Luo, H Xie, M Huang and AS Cheng. Health benefits of qigong or tai chi for cancer patients: a systematic review and meta-analyses. Complement Ther Med 2014; 22: 173-86.
  16. Chan CL, Wang CW, Ho RT, Ng SM, Chan JS, Ziea ET et al. A systematic review of the effectiveness of qigong exercise in supportive cancer care. Support Care Cancer 2012; 20: 1121-33.
  17. Oh B, Butow P, Mullan B, Hale A, Lee MS, Guo X et al. A Critical Review of the Effects of Medical Qigong on Quality of Life, Immune Function, and Survival in Cancer Patients. Integr Cancer Ther 2012; 11: 101-10.
  18. Lee MS, Chen KW, Sancier KM, Ernst E. Qigong for cancer treatment: A systematic review of controlled clinical trials. Acta Oncol 2007; 46: 717-22.
  19. Lee MS, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Internal qigong for pain conditions: a systematic review. J Pain 2009; 10: 1121-7.
  20. Larkey LK, Roe DJ, Weihs KL, Jahnke R, Lopez AM, Rogers CE et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of Qigong/Tai Chi Easy on Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors. Ann Behav Med 2015; 49: 165-76.
  21. Campo RA, N Agarwal, PC LaStayo, K O'Connor, L Pappas, KM Boucher et al. Levels of fatigue and distress in senior prostate cancer survivors enrolled in a 12-week randomized controlled trial of Qigong. J Cancer Surviv 2014; 8: 60-9.
  22. Chan THY, LP Yuen, T Lee, JSM Chan, JST Sham and CLW Cha. Effects of Qigong Practice on Salivary Cortisol in Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers: A Randomized Waitlist-Controlled Trial. Psycho-oncology 2013; 22: 245.
  23. Fong SS, SS Ng, WS Luk, JW Chung, JS Ho, M Ying and AW Ma. Effects of qigong exercise on upper limb lymphedema and blood flow in survivors of breast cancer: a pilot study. Integr Cancer Ther 2014; 13: 54-61.
  24. Fong SS, Ng SS, Luk WS, Chung LM, Wong JY, Chung JW. Effects of qigong training on health-related quality of life, functioning, and cancer-related symptoms in survivors of nasopharyngeal cancer: a pilot study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014; 2014: 495274.
  25. Fong SS, Ng SS, Luk WS, Chung JW, Leung JC, Masters RS. Effects of a 6-month Tai Chi Qigong program on arterial hemodynamics and functional aerobic capacity in survivors of nasopharyngeal cancer. J Cancer Surviv 2014; 8: 618-26.