Qigong and Hypertension: A Critique of Research
Abstract: Research studies have pointed to various health-related positive effects of qigong; however, problems in much of the current qigong research methodology have limited interpretation of the potential benefits of qigong. Examples of research on qigong and hypertension are used to bring to light some of these methodological issues. In a review of 30 representative studies, various areas of concern are addressed, including: the sources of studies, lack of random assignment, selection biases, treatment effects, placebo response issues, expectancy biases, blinded outcome assessment, adherence to treatment, reliability of blood pressure measurements, regression to the mean, publication biases, and lack of consistency of measurement. One of the longest term studies, conducted by Kuang et al. (1991) and updated by Wang et al. (1993) is examined in greater detail to illustrate these issues. This study took place over 20 years and reported significant differences between a group practicing qigong and a control group in a variety of measures including a reduction of total mortality rate. The weight of evidence suggests that practicing qigong may have a positive effect on hypertension. Whether qigong alone can affect hypertension is not necessarily the most important question. Further research will be required to better assess and understand the effect of adding qigong into an integrated, multifaceted program that selectively incorporates diet, moderate aerobic exercise, relaxation training, and social and psychological dimensions.