Martial arts intervention in disease has been mostly limited to inflammatory, musculoskeletal or motor diseases (rheumatoid / osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease) where a mechanical intervention effects positive change. However, the application and benefit to malignancy is not well described.


Ninety four children with childhood malignancies enrolled in a martial arts program which encompassed both “soft” (meditation, chi gung) and “hard” (karate) martial arts platforms over the course of 12 months. Pain scores were recorded pre and post intervention. Data are reported as percent change from baseline pre intervention values compared with post using Wilcoxen Signed Ranks test comparing pain score means for all cases; with significance p< 0.05)


The majority of participants were African American (>95%) with a M:F ratio of 3:1. Further, most participant scored improvement in pain after 1-3 encounters. Pain scores prior to intervention were recorded on a scale of 0-10. Patients who partook in the martial arts program demonstrated a reduction in pain scores of 14-30.2% (p<0.05) based on mean comparisons as a group or when corrected for number of visits. Differences in pain scores trended as more pronounced in older vs. younger children, but were not significant (p>0.05). Differences in gender were not significant (p>0.05).


Martial arts can provide a useful modality to decrease pain in childhood cancer. This can improve patient compliance with respect to medical and surgical management thus reducing disease morbidity and healthcare costs.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.