An American study has found that 12 weeks of qigong therapy resulted in significant reductions in fasting glucose levels in patients with type two diabetes. Thirty-two age- and sex-matched participants, all of whom were taking oral diabetes medication, were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Group one received the qigong intervention, group two served as the control group and group three underwent progressive resistance training (PRT). Participants attended weekly qigong or PRT group sessions (60 minutes per week), in addition to practising twice a week at home for 30 minutes per session. Statistically significant reductions in plasma glucose levels were observed in the qigong group, with all participants in this group showing a reduction in fasting glucose by the end of the intervention. In contrast, both the PRT group and the control group showed increased plasma glucose levels over time. Fasting glucose levels in the qigong group also showed significant improvement compared with those of the PRT group and the control group. The qigong group additionally demonstrated trends toward improvement in insulin resistance and HbA1C (glycosylated haemoglobin) levels. (Effects of Qigong on glucose control in type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled pilot study. Diabetes Care. 2010 Jan;33(1):e8).

Brain scans of meditators show that the effects of long-term meditation practice are carried over into non-meditating states. Many meditation techniques aim to increase awareness of ongoing experiences through sustained attention and detachment – observation of these experiences with the intent not to analyse or judge them. With long-term practice, meditators report that these qualities of increased awareness and greater detachment are carried over into everyday life. Japanese investigators hypothesised that the neuroplasticity effects of meditation, which are correlates of increased awareness and detachment, would therefore be detectable in a no-task resting state. Electroencephalography (EEG) was used to compare the brains of qigong meditators and non-meditating controls while at rest. Differences in brain activity between groups were found in the slow delta EEG frequency band (which reflects inhibitory brain functions). In the meditators, appraisal systems were inhibited, while brain areas involved in the detection and integration of sensory information showed increased activation. The authors conclude that the neuroplasticity effects of long-term meditation practice, subjectively described as increased awareness and greater detachment, are carried over into non-meditating states. (Meditators and non-meditators: EEG source imaging during resting. Brain Topogr. 2009 Nov;22(3):158-65).

A small, uncontrolled UK pilot study has found evidence of benefit for qigong in treating chronic fatigue. Eighteen women were taught a qigong routine during weekly classes over six months, and asked to practise it daily for 15 minutes. Participants completed a medical questionnaire and a sleep diary during the two-week baseline control period, and at three and six months following the start of the trial. The qigong intervention resulted in significant changes in scores related to sleep, vitality, social activity, pain, mobility and mental attitude after three and six months. (Qigong ameliorates symptoms of chronic fatigue: a pilot uncontrolled study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Jun;6(2):265-70).

In Australia, a team investigating the use of medical qigong therapy (MQ) has found that it can improve cancer patients’ quality of life (QOL). In a randomised controlled trial, 162 patients received either MQ (gentle exercise, relaxation, meditation and breathing exercises based on Chinese medical theory) or usual care. The MQ group benefited from significant improvements in overall QOL, fatigue and mood disturbance compared with those receiving usual care. In addition, levels of the inflammatory marker serum C-reactive protein, which was measured serially during the course of the trial, were significantly reduced in the MQ group. The authors conclude that MQ may produce physical benefits in the long term through reduced inflammation. (Impact of Medical Qigong on quality of life, fatigue, mood and inflammation in cancer patients: a randomized controlled trial. Ann Oncol. 2009 Oct 30.

A British pilot study suggests that qigong can be used to manage the symptoms of chronic fatigue. Eighteen female participants were recruited, taught a qigong routine during weekly classes over six months, and asked to practise it daily for 15 minutes. Participants completed a questionnaire measuring health-related quality of life and a sleep diary during a two-week baseline control period, and at three and six months following the start of the trial. The qigong intervention resulted in significant changes in sleep rate score and in the subscales of the questionnaire related to vitality, sleep problems, social activity, health distress and psychological well-being; and the improvements were maintained at three and six months.  (Qigong Ameliorates Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue: A Pilot Uncontrolled Study. eCAM. 2008 Jul 15; doi:10.1093/ecam/nem088).

Functional changes relating to pain processing occur in the brain during the practice of qigong. Chinese researchers used fMRI to observe the brains of four male qigong masters (each with more than 30 years experience) while they practiced qigong after receiving a painful stimulus. After 15 minutes qigong practice, many previously activated areas of the brain showed decreased activity, with the exception of the SII insula, which showed increased response amplitude. (fMRI study of pain reaction in the brain under state of “Qigong”. Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(6):937-45).

Researchers in the USA have found that a combination of tai chi and qigong (TQ) can enhance older adults’ immune responses to the flu vaccine. A group of 50 adults in their 70s, were randomised TQ or no exercise. The TQ group attended three one-hour classes per week, consisting of tai chi and qigong movements along with standing and seated meditation. All participants received a flu vaccination at the start of the study and had blood tests over the next five months. The results showed that the TQ group had much higher antibody responses against the virus than the comparison group. The vaccination resulted in a 173, 130 and 109% increase in antibody titre at 3, 6, and 20 weeks post-vaccine, respectively, in the TQ group, compared to 58, 54 and 10% in the controls. (Effects of a Taiji and Qigong intervention on the antibody response to Influenza vaccine in older adults. Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(4):597-607).

For more than 35 years, Audrey Telfer battled to overcome excruciating back pain. Conventional pills had failed her and, at the age of 67, the former finance manager yearned to enjoy her retirement without feeling drained of energy and worn down by constant pain.

She tried a course of physiotherapy which helped but when therapist Karen Dearden, of the Newcastle Sports injury Clinic, suggested acupuncture, the ancient Chinese treatment, she was more than a little sceptical.

But after a couple of 45 minute sessions, combined with 12 combinations of different herbs in powder form, she couldn’t believe the difference.

“The pain was really getting me down. I had tried painkillers but they didn’t work and I found I didn’t have the energy to do very much,” she said.

“But after a few treatments, people were telling me I looked so much better. It was a real tonic. Obviously I’m not cured – as well as back pain, I have asthma and arthritis – but the Chinese medicine has been a real tonic. It’s all about rebalancing the body’”

Acupuncturist Feras Jerjis believes people should take control of their own health and often recommends exercises that people can do in between sessions.

Acupuncture involves inserting fine metal needles in to any of 360 specially designated points on the body. It is used to relieve pain and treat all kinds of ailments by manipulating the body’s energy flow, called ‘chi’, allowing the body to balance and heal itself. Chi travels through the meridians in the body and where it becomes blocked or stagnant, disease or ill health can exist.

An acupuncturist will pinpoint a weakness in your chain of energy and treat it according to your symptoms. Chi enables the body to function and flows through invisible meridians, each of which is named after and related to an organ, including lungs, kidney, stomach, spleen or kidney. Meridians run through many parts of the body  and every point along a specific meridian will be disaffected by disharmony at other points. For example, the teeth are part of the stomach meridian. You should feel a tingling sensation when the needle penetrates the skin. If you feel nothing, it is unlikely the correct acupuncture point has been needled.

Mr Jerjis said: ”Insertion of the needles is painless and during the 20 to 30 minutes that the needles are in. people frequently experience a deep level of relaxation and can often fall asleep.”

The clinic is one of the very few centres in the North East where all five branches of traditional Chinese Medicine  (TCM) are practices with equal emphasis.

They include Tui Na Massage (Tweeno)  which involves deep tissue massage that concentrated on pressure points and joint mobilisation. Nick Hudis, the clinic’s Tui Na therapist said: “People may at first be wary of deep massage which at times can be painful but as chronic aches and pains drop away they are soon hooked.”

Diet therapy is one of the main foundations of traditional `Chinese Medicine, and based on the principal that poor eating habits and food that is too rich hampers digestion and causes ill health.

Qigong, pronounced Chee gung, is also practised at the clinic. It teaches slow gentle movements and as well as maintaining suppleness and calming the mind it is said to reduce high blood pressure, boost the immune system and regulate the metabolism. In China Qigong is popular among cancer patients.

A study has investigated the effects of qigong on stress among computer operators. Ten women were included in a qigong exercise group and an equal number in a control group. Heart rate, blood pressure and finger temperature were measured at the beginning and end of the working day over a period of five weeks. Twenty-four hour urine samples were collected in the first and last weeks to measure catecholamine excretion in urine. Participants kept a daily record of psychological measures of strain and weekly measures of stress levels. Qigong was found to significantly reduce noradrenaline excretion in urine and influenced heart rate and body temperature, indicating reduced activity of the sympathetic nervous system. It also reduced painful low-back symptoms.

(Qigong reduces stress in computer operators. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2007 May;13(2):78-84)

Qigong training can increase the exercise capacity of patients with cardiac impairment. A controlled trial enlisted thirty men and thirteen women, average age 68, suffering from chronic atrial fibrillation. They were randomised to either a 16-week medically assisted qigong training program or to a waiting-list control group. Functional capacity variation was evaluated by measuring how far patients could walk during six minutes, assessed at baseline, at the end of the intervention, and after a further 16 weeks. Patients trained in qigong walked an average 114 metres more (27%) at the end of treatment and 57 metres more (13.7%) 16 weeks later. Control subjects showed no variation in functional capacity.

(Functional capacity after traditional Chinese medicine (qi gong) training in patients with chronic atrial fibrillation: a randomized controlled trial. Prev Cardiol. 2007 Winter;10(1):22-5)