Qigong versus exercise therapy for chronic low back pain in adults – A randomized controlled non-inferiority trial

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The value of qigong in the treatment of chronic low back pain is unclear. In a randomized controlled trial, we evaluated whether qigong is non-inferior to exercise therapy in patients with chronic low back pain.


German outpatients (aged 46.7 ± 10.4) with chronic low back pain [mean visual analogue scale (VAS), 53.9 ± 12.5 mm] were enrolled and randomly allocated in a 1:1 ratio to receive either qigong (64 patients, 12 sessions with 1 × 90 min/week over 3 months) or exercise therapy (63 patients, 12 sessions 1 × 60 min/week). The primary outcome measure was the average pain intensity over the last 7 days on a VAS (0–100 mm, 0 = no pain, 100 = worst imaginable pain, non-inferiority margin = 5 mm) after 3 months. Follow-up was measured after 6 and 12 months.


The mean adjusted low back pain intensity after 3 months was 34.8 mm [95% confidence interval (CI) 29.5; 40.2] in the qigong group and 33.1 mm (95% CI 27.7; 38.4) in the exercise group. Non-inferiority of the qigong group compared with the exercise group failed to show statistical significance (p = 0.204). In both groups, 10 patients reported suspected adverse reactions (e.g., muscle soreness, dizziness, pain) the total number was comparable in both groups (qigong n = 40, exercise n = 44).


Qigong was not proven to be non-inferior to exercise therapy in the treatment of chronic low back pain. Its role in the prevention of chronic low back pain might be addressed in further studies.

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