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The American Nurses Association (ANA) believes that nurses have an ethical responsibility to relieve pain and the suffering it causes. According to the CDC, 20% of U.S. adults experienced chronic pain in 2016, while an additional 8% of U.S. adults suffered from high-impact pain. Those numbers are rising, and holistic nurses can find opportunities to teach complementary and integrative approaches within these patient populations.
Holistic nurses enjoy a broad spectrum of options for treating pain, and one that is gaining attention is the practice of Qigong, a process of exercises from China. The translation of the word Qigong means cultivating or enhancing the functional essence (energy) of a human being.
People have practiced Qigong for more than 5000 years. Many studies document Qigong’s efficacy in maintaining structural integrity, flexibility, and ease of movement. Qigong is a series of slowly orchestrated movements that focus on body posture, breath control, and meditation, drawing upon inner forces to create a focused, relaxed, and balanced state of being. Holistic nurses may enjoy learning Qigong for their own benefit and for teaching this gentle, natural form of pain relief to their patients and clients.
Brooke Benincosa, RN, BSN, teaches a series of Qigong movements that provide five holistic health benefits for her patients, including:
Physical benefits: Qigong can strengthen the five kinetic chains connecting the musculature within the body through the coiling and uncoiling of its twisting motions. These motions help decrease body toxins, lubricate fascia, increase hyaluronic acid, and increase blood flow to bone marrow. These benefits can help improve balance to reduce the incidence of fall-related injuries among the elderly.
Stretching movements loosen the fascia, help lubricate the joint capsule, soothe the nervous system, alleviate muscle tension, and improve the lymphatic system’s flow.
A 2006 study cited in World Scientific demonstrated a measurable difference in the bone density of menopausal women who participated in a 12-week program of exercise.
Randomized-controlled studies reported by the National Library of Medicine, citing that same study, found that cancer patients experienced an improved quality of life and decreased pain upon participation in Qigong exercises.
Mental benefits: Increased awareness and mindfulness
Emotional benefits: Decreased depression, increased relaxation, and reduced anxiety
Spiritual benefits: Helps restore peace and inner balance because Qigong incorporates meditation and harmony into the movements
Brooke employs medical White Tiger Qigong to bring together breathing, mindfulness, and precise movement for wellness and disease prevention. Studies of those who practice Qigong suggest increased immune markers and decreased inflammatory measurements in participant blood tests.
Among these many benefits, the remediation of pain is one of its most potent. Nurses realize chronic pain is not “just in a patient’s head.” Addressing the mind-body connection through breathing and gentle movements gives a patient the ultimate control in his/her rehabilitation. Self-healing is not something we can do for our patients but requires shifting the burden to our patients in self-determinate ways.
Holistic nurses find themselves uniquely positioned to teach and advocate for complementary, integrative, and holistic approaches to health for the whole person. The public will benefit when nurses suggest well-researched alternatives to the pharmaceutical alleviation of pain.
New Directions for Nurses offers a CE courses to teach nurses how to use Qigong and other complementary modalities effectively in their nursing practice. Click here to learn more.
Chen, Hsing-Hsia, Mei-Ling Yeh, and Fang-Ying Lee. “The Effects of Baduanjin Qigong in the Prevention of Bone Loss for Middle-Aged Women.” The American Journal of Chinese Medicine 34, no. 05 (January 1, 2006): 741–47. https://doi.org/10.1142/S0192415X06004259.
Dahlheimer, James. “Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults — United States, 2016.” MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 67 (2018). https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6736a2.
Kienle, G. S., and H. Kiene. “The Powerful Placebo Effect: Fact or Fiction?” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 50, no. 12 (December 1997): 1311–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0895-4356(97)00203-5.
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