“Medical” Qigong

The power of words and the problems. Old Qigong book from Plum PublicationsThere’s a fairly new form of Qigong known as “medical” Qigong. In this we are combining two powerful words representing East and West. The adjective “medical” seems to give an objective credence to the subject. It smacks of Western medicine. But of course there are a few problems. First, if this is medical Qigong, what was Qigong before? There has always been a healing use for Qigong. Why is this medical? If you are told to jog for exercise by your doctor is that medical jogging?

Then there’s the completely mistaken idea that “Medical Qigong” is a highly valued part of the traditional Chinese medical picture. It is not. Some hospitals and universities are offering it, many Chinese and Western style doctors and other health practitioners are skeptical. This is because the word medical also brings a confusion. Western medicine is normative and statistical. Chinese medicine is pattern oriented and individualized to a point not yet reached in the west. “Medical” Qigong boils down to a pre-sorted series of Qigongs, highly simplified, that are used prescriptively for certain ailments.In taking this prescriptive approach all the fine adjustments among hundreds of discarded possibilities are reduced to formulas suggested by people with actually very little Qigong experience. You may like ginseng, think its a fine herb, but you don’t prescribe it for everything.

In some ways this negates the entire Chinese approach to healing while, at the same time, lacking the rigor of Western scientific methods. When I lived on the East coast I remember being told that my city, Baltimore, had all the benefits of Southern efficiency and Northern hospitality.

This is not even to mention that misguided practitioners are signing up for courses that take only a few months and then are “certified” to diagnose the patient’s condition, a skill that Chinese doctors spend their lives sharpening.  There is indeed a research movement to validate and correlate the healing properties of Qigong. This is medical Qigong as a longitudinal study and may some day harvest some real results. But this is not the quick reference approach we now see called “medical Qigong” by people who took a six week course in Shanghai or some place.

The point is that I am sure medical doctors in the Western tradition don’t particularly want anyone to filch their hard-won objective results. And, in the same manner, real traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t need to fit into the Western paradigm to be effective. All the rest is salesmanship.

P.S. Please don’t write in and tell me that Medical Qigong “cured you”. Yes, we are saying that Qigong is effective, with or without the “medical” prefixing.