If you have fibromyalgia, or know someone with this chronic condition that can make even the lightest touch excruciatingly painful, it’s easy to get frustrated. Doctors often misdiagnose it, and the drugs they offer don’t work very well—and can have nasty side effects.
But there is hope for lasting relief. As modern science uncovers the key role the central nervous system plays in this disease, we are discovering that the best approaches aren’t drugs at all but ancient mind-body disciplines that literally “retrain the brain.” There are many ways to retrain your brain, including yoga and tai chi.
The key is to find a practice that you like and can do regularly.
That’s why it’s great to find that yet another gentle movement system has now been shown to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms.
It’s called qigong.
QIGONG AGAINST CHRONIC PAIN
Qigong, a form of “meditative movement,” involves fluid, dynamic movements along with quieting breath work. It’s already been shown to relieve chronic neck pain, help in recovery from mild traumatic brain injury and reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
In the new study, researchers from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, assigned 100 people with fibromyalgia to learn and practice qigong—or to be put on a waiting list for treatment (the control group). Most were women (average age 52) who had been suffering for about 10 years. Those in the qigong group spent three half-days learning the practice from a qualified instructor and then were asked to practice for 45 to 60 minutes every day for eight weeks.
Results: After eight weeks, those in the qigong group improved significantly in their pain levels, sleep quality, anxiety levels and ability to function, physically and mentally. But the study didn’t end there. They were encouraged to keep practicing on their own and, four to six months later, the women reported that the benefits continued.
Those who practiced the full 45 minutes a day got the most benefit. Exactly how it works isn’t known, but lead author Mary Lynch, MD, a pain medicine expert, notes that the mindful, meditative state that you reach through qigong releases neurochemical and immunological messengers that improve healing and reduce pain.
“We do know that it works,” she says. “Some people in the study reduced the amount of medications they were using or got off meds completely. But you have to continue to practice it. This is not an as-needed treatment.”
EXPLORING THE QIGONG WAY
The best way to find a qigong training program near you is to look at community centers with recreational offerings, mindfulness centers, alternative healing centers and women’s centers, Dr. Lynch says. For a preliminary look at the moves, check out Part 3 of this free video from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health…