Alternative Mental Health Community

Qi Gong for Psychological Disorders

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Learn about Qi Gong. Qi Gong may be helpful in treating anxiety, depression, addiction, and other mental illnesses.

Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Background

Qi Gong is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that is believed to be at least 4,000 years old. There are two types of Qi Gong: internal and external. Internal Qi Gong techniques include learned and self-directed exercises that involve sounds, movements and meditation. External Qi Gong (Qi emission) is practiced by a Qi Gongmaster who uses his or her hands with the aim to project qi (pronounced "chi") to others for the purpose of healing. More than 5,000 styles of Qi Gong have been cataloged by the Chinese government.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Qi Gong is considered beneficial for a large variety of medical conditions. Many practitioners believe there is a role for Qi Gong in treating chronic conditions such as cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers and asthma. Scientific evidence suggests a possible role for internal Qi Gong in the treatment of high blood pressure; this therapy may be beneficial when used with other treatments (such as prescription drugs). There is preliminary evidence that Qi Gong may manage pain and anxiety associated with pain. Internal Qi Gong actively engages a patient in his or her own health care and can be performed in the presence or absence of a Qi Gong master.

Theory

Qi Gong is sometimes described as "a way of working with life energy." There are three main branches of Qi Gong: medical (used for healing), spiritual (for self-awareness) and martial art (for self-protection). Qi Gong is generally intended to be harmonious with the natural rhythms of time and season. It may be practiced daily with the aim of health maintenance and disease prevention. Medical Qi Gong can be an active (internal) or passive (external) noninvasive technique that involves five steps: meditating, cleansing, strengthening/recharging, circulating and dispersing qi. Specific movements, meditations and sounds are used for each step.

Evidence

Scientists have studied Qi Gong for the following health problems:

High blood pressure
There is good evidence from several studies in humans suggesting that Qi Gong, when used with conventional treatments, may be of benefit for high blood pressure. Initial research reports fewer deaths among people with high blood pressure who practice Qi Gong. There is some evidence that internal Qi Gong relaxation exercises may be safe for helping to control high blood pressure associated with pregnancy. Further research is warranted.

Chronic pain
There is early research supporting the use of internal Qi Gong exercises or externally applied Qi for pain management and reduction of anxiety associated with pain. More evidence is needed before a firm recommendation can be made.

Heroin detoxification
A recent study looked at the effectiveness of Qi Gong therapy vs. medical and nonmedical treatment in the detoxification of heroin addicts. Results showed that qigong may be beneficial in heroin detoxification without side effects, although the possibility of the placebo effect cannot be completely eliminated. Other treatments have been better studied for heroin detoxification and are recommended at this time. Qi Gong may be used as an adjunct therapy.

Depression
Qi Gong has been studied in a small study of elderly patients to see if it helped depression in those with chronic physical illnesses. Study results were inconclusive, and further research is needed before a recommendation can be made. Qi Gong may be used as an adjunct to more proven therapies.

Cardiac rehabilitation
Cardiac rehabilitation programs are designed to improve heart health through activities such as monitored exercise, and they are often recommended for individuals who have heart failure or who have had a heart attack. One study suggests that Qi Gong may aid in cardiac rehabilitation in terms of improving physical activity, balance, and coordination. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.