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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Qigong as Therapy

From Encounters with Qi: Exploring Chinese Medicine by David Eisenberg, MD
(C) 1995

The most intriguing Chinese therapy is that of Qi Gong. It is ancient, fundamental, and the most perplexing of Chinese therapeutic interventions. Various of its phenomena challenge the foundations of Western biomedical thought.

Qi Gong techniques epitomize the Chinese claim that the human psyche can influence susceptibility to disease and the natural course of illness. In the West we are beginning to investigate the relation between life stress and immunology, particularly as it pertains to cancer. Western medicine has begun to ask whether and how meditation, biofeedback, the relaxation response, and faith alter human physiology. Researchers in behavioral science, psychosomatic medicine, endocrinology, and neurology are redefining the links between brain and body. The interdisciplinary field has been called psychoneuroimmunology. Three thousand years before the birth of the first psychoneuroimmunologist, Chinese doctors were struggling with the same mind-body relations. 

Qi Gong can theoretically be applied to all patients and all disease states. Clinical studies using hypertension and survival from cancer as objective end points may verify the claim that Qi Gong can reduce the susceptibility to disease as well as the morbidity or mortality associated with disease. If studies in American laboratories confirm any of China's assertions about Qi Gong masters' energy emission, psychokinesis, clairvoyance, or healing powers, we will need to adjust our sense of the limitations of the human body. 

The marriage of Chinese and Western medicine offers Western scientists more than clinical techniques and physiological mechanisms, however. It also offers an alternative approach to health and illness. Western medicine emphasizes intervention over prevention. Most Western research focuses on the intricacies of active disease; it gives comparatively little attention to the effect that life-style, personal disposition, and thoughts have on disease. China has taken a very different approach. In its traditional system, health is much more than the absence of observable pathology. Activity, diet, and psyche play critical roles in the Chinese perception of health and illness.