Qigong for Multiple Sclerosis: A Feasibility Study

Principal Investigator: Angela Senders, ND

Student Investigator: Lita Buttolph

Background: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that affects over 2.3 million people worldwide.1  People with MS can experience a variety of symptoms, including impaired motor function and balance, fatigue, pain, impaired cognition, and depression. Ancient Chinese movement arts, such as taiji and qigong, have been shown to improve quality of life, balance and fatigue in a variety of chronic conditions.2–8 However, very little published research has been conducted on the effect of these practices specifically for people with MS.9

Objective: The primary goal of this study is to assess the feasibility of weekly community qigong classes for people with MS. A secondary goal is to test the effect of weekly community qigong classes on quality of life, balance, and gait for people with MS.

Participants and Design: In this non-blinded randomized controlled feasibility trial, twenty adults with any type of MS will be randomized to either a qigong intervention (n=10) or wait-list control group (n=10). The intervention group will participate in 60-to-90 minute community qigong classes once a week for 10 weeks. Participants will choose from four vetted qigong instructors and will select a class that is geographically convenient and fits their schedule.  This pragmatic design maximizes external validity by reflecting the ways in which people with MS initiate qigong practice in the real world. Feasibility outcomes include recruitment, adherence to the qigong intervention, and ability to participate.  Secondary outcomes include validated measures of quality of life (PROMIS, the Multiple Sclerosis Impact Scale), balance (the Four Square Step Test), gait (the MS Walking Scale, Timed 25-Foot Walk Test, and Timed-up and Go), and fatigue (PROMIS, Modified Fatigue Impact Scale) collected at baseline and 10 weeks.

Results from this trial will provide preliminary data to seek future funding for a fully powered randomized controlled trial of qigong and MS.