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Qigong Versus Exercise Versus No Therapy for Patients With Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Rendant, Daniel, MD*; Pach, Daniel, MD*; Lüdtke, Rainer, MSc; Reisshauer, Anett, MD; Mietzner, Anna, MD*; Willich, Stefan N., MD, MBA, MPH*; Witt, Claudia M., MD, MBA*

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181d51fca
Randomized Trial

Study Design. Randomized controlled trial.

Objective. To evaluate whether qigong is more effective than no treatment and not inferior to exercise therapy.

Summary of Background Data. Lifetime prevalence of chronic neck pain is close to 50%. Qigong is often used by patients, although, the evidence is still unclear.

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.

Conclusion. Qigong was more effective than no treatment in patients with chronic neck pain. Further studies could be designed without waiting list control and should use a larger sample to clarify the value of qigong compared to exercise therapy.

This randomized controlled trial with 123 patients with chronic neck pain was performed to evaluate whether qigong is superior to no treatment and noninferior to exercise therapy. Six months of qigong intervention was shown to be more effective than no treatment. To clarify noninferiority, a larger sample size is needed.

*Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics, Charité University Medical Center, Berlin, Germany.

Clinic for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Charité University Medical Center, Berlin, Germany.

Clinic for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Charité University Medical Center, Berlin, Germany.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Claudia M. Witt, MD, MBA, Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics, Charité University Medical Center, Berlin 10098, Germany; E-mail: claudia.witt@charite.de

Acknowledgment date: August 27, 2009. Revision date: December 14, 2009. Acceptance date: December 28, 2009.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s). Institutional funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.