Newswise — Qigong therapy, a form of traditional Chinese medical practice, appears to be a potential complementary treatment for osteoarthritis dependent upon the capability of the healer, according to a study conducted at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey by Kevin Chen, PhD, MPH, and Dr. Adam Perlman, MPH, FACP.

The study, titled "Effects of external Qigong therapy on osteoarthritis of the knee," was published in the April 2008 edition of Clinical Rheumatology. An abstract of the report can be found at the PubMed website.

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the US and osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting about 21 million Americans. Patients suffering from osteoarthritis are increasingly utilizing complementary and alternative medicine treatments, including Qigong therapy, used in China for treating arthritis.

Qigong is a general term for a variety of traditional Chinese energy exercises and therapy. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) suggests the existence of a subtle energy (qi) circulating throughout the body and in the surrounding environment. According to TCM, good health is the result of free-flowing, well-balance "qi" , while sickness or pain is the result of a blockage of the "qi" flow or unbalanced "qi" in the body.

"Although further research needs to be conducted, Qigong may be an effective complementary treatment for osteoarthritis," said Dr. Perlman, chair of the Department of Primary Care, executive director of the UMDNJ-Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and a co-investigator on the study. "Given the limitation and potential adverse effects of drug intervention of osteoarthritis, Qigong therapy might prove to be a valuable option as a supplement to conventional treatment." Further study is required to determine the efficacy of the practice.

For the purpose of this study, two Qigong therapists were invited to participate, using external Qigong therapy. External Qigong therapy (EQT) involves hand movements, similar to therapeutic touch, acupressure on specific points, focused attention and other mind healing techniques to direct the therapist "qi" or energy into the patient. This is performed in an effort to remove sick "qi," eliminating disease or relieving pain.

Both healers were trained in China, but from different traditions. The first healer had lineal heritage in Taoism and was known for his anticancer training and achievement. The second healer was the fifth generation born into a traditional Chinese medicine family but did not attend medical school. It was noted that there is considerable variability in the forms of EQT practice, varying by school and practitioner.

Study participants reported significant pain reduction and functionality in varying degrees after therapy. The researchers indicated during the course of the study that participating healers produced significantly different outcomes.

The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.

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Clinical Rheumatology, April 2008 (Apr-2008)