Qigong

Also known by these names

  • Chi gung
  • Ch'i kung
  • Qi gong

Key Points

  • Qigong an ancient Chinese practice using breathing techniques, gentle movement and meditation.
  • The goal is to cleanse, strengthen and circulate the life energy (qi).
  • BCCT’s interest in qigong derives from research showing benefits regarding symptoms of cancer and treatments, including fatigue, sleep difficulty, depression and pain.
  • Qigong is generally considered safe.
  • Classes and videos are widely available.
  • Qigong is most likely beneficial across a wide range of cancers, even though research to date may focus on only a few cancer types.

Qigong, pronounced “chee-gung”, is an ancient Chinese practice consisting of a combination of movement, self-massage, meditation, and breathing. The word qigong is a combination of qi (life-force, energy, creativity, consciousness, breath, function) and gong (cultivation or practice over time).1

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Clinical Practice Guidelines

2009 evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for integrative oncology conclude that therapies based on a philosophy of bioenergy fields are safe and may provide some benefit for reducing stress and enhancing quality of life. Only limited evidence is available regarding their efficacy for symptom management, including reducing pain and fatigue. The Society for Integrative Oncology gives a strong recommendation for these therapies:4

  • For reducing anxiety: grade 1B (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence)
  • For pain, fatigue, and other symptom management: grade 1C (strong recommendation, low or very low quality evidence)

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Managing Side Effects and Promoting Wellness

Managing or relieving side effects or symptoms, reducing treatment toxicity, supporting quality of life or promoting general well-being

As with other mind-body approaches, assessing the effectiveness of qigong in addressing cancer symptoms can be challenging due to the difficulty in creating controls and placebo conditions.6

A 2017 review and meta-analysis of 22 studies involving both qigong and tai chi (another movement and meditation therapy) found these results after three to 12 weeks of training and practice:7

  • Significant improvement in fatigue
  • Significant improvement in sleep difficulty
  • Significant improvement in depression
  • Significant improvement in overall quality of life
  • A statistically non-significant trend was observed for pain

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Cautions

Qigong is generally considered safe.

Access

Qigong is available as classes, on video or online. Many hospitals, wellness centers and other health-related facilities offer qigong classes.

Integrative Programs, Protocols and Medical Systems

For more information about programs and protocols, see our Integrative Programs and Protocols page.

Non-cancer Uses of Qigong

BCCT has not reviewed the effectiveness of this therapy for non-cancer uses.

  • Arthritis
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome
  • Mechanical neck disorders
  • Menopause symptoms
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Physical fitness, including resting heart rate, strength and balance
  • Pulmonary dysfunction
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Stroke prevention
  • Type 2 diabetes

Written by Nancy Hepp, MS, and reviewed by Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS; most recent update on June 13, 2019. Note: BCCT has not conducted an independent review of research of qigong. This summary draws from CAM-Cancer and other sources as noted.

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