Chigong, Chikung, or Qigong, are all the same activity and are all pronounced chee gung. It is a Chinese exercise and health system that goes back 4000 years into the past.

In the most primitive forms of Qigong, practitioners would teach laborers basic rudimentary exercises to help them better deal with their difficult lives. Later on, Qigong became an indispensable component of Chinese medicine. Herbal medicine and acupuncture are the two other components of Chinese medicine. A regular part of Chinese medicine practice is in using Qigong to manage headaches.

The Qigong practiced today is composed of three activities, visualization, movement, and breathing. Qigong was divided up into various schools in the early part of last century. These include Martial Arts Qigong developed to enhance stamina and power, Exercise Qigong with activities to strengthen and to improve flexibility and mobility and to strengthen the muscles and medical Qigong that comes with specific exercises for treatment of specific illnesses.

Medical Qigong was developed to alleviate and/or prevent headaches via gentle relaxing movements and special breathing techniques.

Since most headaches are due to muscle tension and stress, it is quite easy to alleviate the pain and even simpler to prevent the headache from occurring again.

Qigong is similar to Tai Chi, and if you’ve ever seen how this practice (Qigong) is done, you will have an idea of the fluid and slow movements of Tai Chi.

Method One – Lying down

Make sure your shoulders and neck are comfortable while lying flat on your back. Shut your eyes and count ten slow long breaths. Visualize the word relax on each breath. With each breath feel yourself relaxing more and more. Visualize your shoulder and neck muscles becoming as soft as gelatin and that you’re sinking lower and lower into your bed.

If you want to lie down, make sure you use a pillow to support your neck. This is a good idea when you already have a headache

Method Two – Sitting

Sit comfortably in a soft chair and repeat the same relaxing and breathing as when lying down. If your headache gets worse when you lie down, try sitting. Sitting can also be a good idea when you’re already suffering from a headache.

Method Three – Headache Prevention

While standing, keep your feet shoulder width apart. Inhale through your nose up to the count of three, and exhale out your nose again on the count of three. Begin moving your shoulders, arms, and feet slowly in a comfortable manner.

This exercise is known as spontaneous Qigong and needs no additional instruction apart from the fact that you move in order to identify soreness in your muscle. You then repeat gently the movement slowly once you locate the area of the sore muscles. This is designed to locate the muscles in your back, shoulders and neck, which because they’re tight are partly responsible for the headaches you’re feeling, and then relax and move them whilst breathing deeply into the muscles. Again visualize your muscles softening.

Emily Farish is a licensed acupuncturist in Spokane, WA with advanced training in modern acupuncture techniques and traditional Asian therapies.