How It Works
- Raising and lowering the arms
- Rubbing the ears, feet, and hands
- Moving your head from side to side
Qigong and tai chi may be particularly attractive as a primary or complementary exercise options for people with chronic pain because they are low-impact and simple to perform.
Chronic Pain Symptom Relief
- Functional Problems and Pain In a research review, 97 percent of the 886 studies examined showed favorable results from practicing qigong. Several positive outcomes were reported, with improvements in physical function and pain being among the benefits described.
- Fibromyalgia Musculoskeletal Pain When researchers followed 226 people with fibromyalgia (a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain) for one year, they found that after 24 weeks, participants who practiced tai chi once or twice a week reported more improvement in their symptom control than those who performed aerobic exercises twice a week. And, the longer they practiced tai chi, the better the results. Authors of the study concluded, “Tai chi mind-body treatment results in similar or greater improvement in symptoms than aerobic exercise, the current most commonly prescribed nondrug treatment, for a variety of outcomes for patients with fibromyalgia.”
- Chronic Low Back Pain In a review of studies, researchers looked at whether tai chi, qigong, and yoga could improve symptoms of chronic low back pain. They found that all three practices were effective at helping pain, reporting positive results, such as reductions in pain-related disability and improved functional ability. However, the researchers noted that there were only three studies available to analyze on qigong and four on tai chi, compared with 25 involving yoga. They say more studies are needed to further investigate this association.
- Osteoarthritis Results of a small study funded by the NCCIH included 40 participants with knee osteoarthritis and found that tai chi reduced pain and improved function better than an education and stretching regimen.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain One small study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders suggested that tai chi may improve pain and other symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
RELATED: 8 Great Pain Relievers You Aren’t Using
The effects of qigong and tai chi for pain will likely become more evident in the future as more extensive research is conducted.
General Health and Wellness Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi
In addition to helping with chronic pain relief, qigong and tai chi have been shown in studies to offer many health benefits for specific conditions and diseases.
- Weight Loss Tai chi may be a suitable weight loss option for older people with obesity. According to one study, the practice was just as effective as group workouts for slimming down and reducing belly fat in people 50 and older.
- Fall Prevention Several studies have found that tai chi may help prevent falls in older adults or people with Parkinson’s disease.
- Quality of Life, Symptom Improvements in People With Certain Conditions Tai chi and qigong may also improve symptoms or quality of life for people with the following conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Chronic fatigue
- Cognitive function
- Heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Increased muscle strength
- Improved cardiovascular and respiratory fitness
- Better mood and concentration
- More energy
- Better sleep
- Improved balance and stability
How to Use It
The Tai Chi for Health Institute provides a directory to help you search for their registered tai chi instructors in your area.
What to Expect
Qigong and tai chi classes typically take place in a quiet and calm environment. You’ll learn the moves at your own pace.
If you struggle with the moves, try to be patient with yourself. Never perform any movements that are painful or worsen your pain.
Fees: Is Qigong Expensive, and Will Health Insurance Cover it?
The cost of a qigong or tai chi class might depend on where you take it, who the instructor is, how often you attend, and other factors.
You can save money by performing the exercises at home, but many people like the socialization aspect of group classes.
Also, health clubs or senior centers may offer group classes for free or as part of your membership.
Certain resources may be helpful for people who are interested in learning more about the benefits of qigong and tai chi. Here are some of our top picks:
American Tai Chi and Qigong Association
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Tai Chi and Qi Gong. University of Michigan Health. September 23, 2020.
- Tai Chi: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. October 2016.
- Qigong: What You Need to Know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. February 2022.
- The Difference Between Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Piedmont Healthcare.
- Tai Chi Chuan. Brittanica.com. August 2006.
- Rhoads CJ. Mechanism of Pain Relief through Tai Chi and Qigong. Journal of Pain and Relief. April 2013.
- Wood RC. Tai Chi as a Method of Improving Pain Management in Patients With Fibromyalgia. Lifestyle Medicine. November 2020.
- Lam P. How Does Tai Chi for Arthritis Work? Tai Chi for Health Institute.
- The Health Benefits of Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Piedmont Cancer.
- Oh B, Bae K, Lamoury G, e al. The Effects of Tai Chi and Qigong on Immune Responses: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. Medicines. June 2020.
- Huston P, McFarlane B. Health Benefits of Tai Chi: What Is the Evidence? Canadian Family Physician. November 2016.
- Jahnke R, Larkey L, Rogers C, et al. A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. American Journal of Health Promotion. July–August 2010.
- Zhang YP, Hu RX, Han M, et al. Evidence Base of Clinical Studies on Qi Gong: A Bibliometric Analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. May 2020.
- Wang C, Schmidt C, Fielding R, et al. Effect of Tai Chi Versus Aerobic Exercise for Fibromyalgia: Comparative Effectiveness Randomized Controlled Trial. British Medical Journal. March 2018.
- Park J, Krause-Parello C, Barnes C. A Narrative Review of Movement-Based Mind-Body Interventions. Holistic Nursing Practice. January-February 2020.
- Uhlig T, Fongen C, Steen E, et al. Exploring Tai Chi in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. March 2010.
- Siu P, Yu A, Chin E, et al. Effects of Tai Chi or Conventional Exercise on Central Obesity in Middle-Aged and Older Adults. Annals of Internal Medicine August 2021.
- Li F, Harmer P, Fitzgerald K, et al. Tai Chi and Postural Stability in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease. The New England Journal of Medicine. February 2012.
- Mueller S, Murphy V. Tai Chi: Fall Prevention and Bone Health. Osteoporosis Canada. February 2020.
- Tai Chi Shown to Ease Back Pain. Arthritis Foundation.
- Tai Chi: A Gentle Way to Fight Stress. Mayo Clinic. February 2021.
- TC Society. Your First Tai Chi Class.
- Haroth R. What is Qigong and What Can It Do for Me? Maryland University of Integrative Health. January 2022.
- The Health Benefits of Tai Chi. Cleveland Clinic. November 2020.
- Worstell C. 10 Reasons Why Tai Chi Is a Great Exercise for Seniors MedicareAdvantage.com. December 2021.