by Dr. CJ Rhoads

A few months ago I was attending a swearing-in ceremony for a state Senator who is a friend of mine, and I was seated next to a medical doctor who was the CEO of a huge health network with several hospitals and thousands of doctors.  I asked him what would it take to get him to look at Taijiquan and Qigong as a treatment for health issues.  He answered "When it appears in the New England Journal of Medicine".  At the time I didn't know it, but that article had already appeared.  Another friend, Lijun Ma, later that week just happened to send me an email about these articles, along with the specific references. He said...

"I just wanted to mention this study and an editorial comment that were published in New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) last year because this is the first time that studies related to Taijiquan and its health benefit were recognized and published in this highest level of Medical journal. "

  • 1) A randomized trial of tai chi for fibromyalgia. Wang C, Schmid CH, Rones R, Kalish R, Yinh J, Goldenberg DL, Lee Y, McAlindon T., N Engl J Med. 2010 Aug 19;363(8):743-54.
  •  2) Prescribing tai chi for fibromyalgia--are we there yet? Yeh GY, Kaptchuk TJ, Shmerling RH. N Engl J Med. 2010 Aug 19;363(8):783-4. "

This is great, but there are two sides to this "win".  One of my doctors still thinks that fibromyalgia is a "psychosomatic" illness and should not be treated the same as "real" illnesses.  I can see that many doctors would simply lump this solution along with the disease itself as hogwash.  I would like to see randomized controlled studies for measurable items such as lowering blood pressure, increasing lung capacity, increasing immune response, shrinking tumors, balancing thyroid hormones or blood sugar, etc., etc., etc. [That is, if - indeed - these practices can produce those results reliably.  Can they?]

Credible Sources of Current Research

There are many high caliber researchers who have focused on high quality non-biased studies.  Most of these people were on the Academic Committee of the the ground-breaking world-class International Taijiquan Symposium of 2009.

Dr. Yang Yang has been involved in a number of high quality studies, and has dedicated his life to demonstrating the benefits of Taijiquan and Qigong to the medical community.   

Dr. Peggy Klein and her students at D'Youville College have published a meta-analylsis on recent research.

Dr. Shin Lin was part of a team that combed through over 11,000 studies on Meditation Health practices such as Qigong, Taiji, and Yoga in order to evaluate the overall direction.  They summarized 800 of the most impactful. Their results can be found here.

Dr. Thom Krapu aggregates Tai Chi research on his page here: http://www.krapu4.com/taichi/research/tairesum.htm

There are many other sources of slightly less than a western-science focus (and therefore may require some additional diligence in interpreting results).

National Qigong Association has many studies published on their website: http://nqa.org/resources/articles/

A lot of research references from the Qigong Institute can be found on their web page: http://www.qigonginstitute.org/html/papers.php

Bill Douglass has gathered thousands of studies on his World Tai Chi and Qigong page:
http://www.worldtaichiday.org/WTCQDHlthBenft.html

There are also, of course, thousands of references in MedLine and other health and medical research databases: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

Of course, both the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical Center have also advocated these things, as described on the benefits page of the Taijiquan Enthusiasts website

This is all good. But I believe that that we need to be extremely diligent regarding studies of these integrative health practices.  There are many in the medical community who are looking at integrative health practices these days - for many reasons not the least of which is that healthcare costs are skyrocketing, the population is aging, and chronic deseases rates are exploding. The lifestyle of the modern world is NOT necessarily the best for our bodies, and our general ill-health and incidents of obesity show it.  Everyone is looking for answers - even in alternative, complementary, and integrative health practices (or whatever we want to call it). It should be everyone's goal to ensure that integrative health practices, when there is evidence that they work, should become part of the normal landscape of medicine.