Background: Chronic Back Pain (CBP) is a common symptom bothering the elderly population seeking medical care. The most common strategy suggested for the relief of this condition is pharmacological and causes harmful side effects. Yi Ren Medical Qigong (YRMQ) has demonstrated that just one single application of this gentle exercise could reduce chronic pain in elderly people. The objective of this clinical trial was to evaluate the effectiveness of qi therapy in decreasing pain or discomfort.
Methods: This pilot study evaluated the use of YRMQ in a group of seven participants with CBP. Participants aged 66.7+/-3.4 years with CBP took part in weekly one-h group qigong sessions in addition to practicing a shorter version of the exercises at home twice a week. Pain intensity was evaluated using a Visual Analog Scale (VAS), showing reduction of symptoms. Other assessment tools such as the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) and the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) scales were used to measure the pain reduction over the course of the 5-week trial.
Results: A total of 7 subjects (4 women and 3 men) were enrolled successfully in the trial. Out of the seven participants, 28.6% (two) of the subjects came every week, 42.8% (three) missed one week, while 28.6% (two) missed two or more weeks. The mean adjusted low back intensity using the VAS started at 4.43+/-2.76 and ended at 3.16+/-2.4 (P=0.144). The quality of life was measured with the RMDQ and showed a reduction from the beginning of the trial at 6.43+/-5.65 to the end at 4+/-4.24 (P=0.042). Finally the two-part BPI also decreased from the baseline to week-5 respectively (Part I and II) from 4.61+/-2.82 to 2.65+/-0.91 (P=0.043) and from 4.25+/-2.74 to the end at 2.23+/-1.29 (P=0.043). No serious or life-threatening adverse effects were found.
Conclusion: Qigong has proven to provide at least in the short term some reduction of pain and pain medication use. Our preliminary efficacy results were consistent with previous qigong studies showing improvement of back pain via assessment score changes, but not enough significant statistical evidence relevant to prove replicable efficacy of the proposed exercises. There were still multiple limitations to our trial such as the study group not having a control group to compare the results. The small sample size associated with our pilot design limited our statistical power. Conducting a 5 week pilot trial of qigong exercises for an elderly population sample with CBP was moderately feasible.