Acupressure Proves Helpful for Pain, Nausea and Sleep
A remedy to relieve your lower back pain, nausea, or sleep problems may be as close as your fingertips. According to a recent review of 71 studies of acupressure, the ancient Chinese medicine practice can prove helpful for a number of health concerns.
What is acupressure?
Acupressure is a healing practice based on the philosophy of energy flow (ki or chi) and energy meridians, Yin and Yang, and the five elements. The idea is that one can affect the balance of energy by applying pressure on certain points (acupoints) on the meridians, similar to acupuncture where needles are inserted into the points.
Acupressure for pain
An evaluation of the studies that involved the use of acupressure for pain conditions led the reviewers to state that “the evidence for the efficacy of acupressure for pain is fairly strong.” Acupressure was more effective than control for reducing painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea), lower back pain, and labor pain.
They also reported that acupressure was less effective for relieving pain associated with minor trauma and injections, and that evidence for headache was insufficient. One study looked at dental pain, and although positive results were reported, too few patients finished the study to make the findings significant.
Acupressure for nausea and vomiting
The second most often studied health problem regarding acupressure was nausea and vomiting, and here the practice proved most effective for relieving postoperative nausea. Three studies looked at acupressure for nausea in pregnancy, and the results were variable although more positive than not.
Chemotherapy is associated with nausea and vomiting, and acupressure may be helpful in these situations. Data from 11 trials showed a significant reduction in vomiting but not nausea associated with use of acupressure.
Acupressure, sleep and mental health
Five studies explored the use of acupressure in sleep among institutionalized elderly and found that it improved sleep quality. Another five studies investigated mental health, including stress, anxiety, and dementia. Acupressure seemed to be beneficial for anxiety related to surgery and fairly good for reducing agitation in dementia, although the sample size was small.
Acupressure and stroke
A review of three studies of acupressure for stroke indicated that while the practice was effective in improving pain, depression, heart rate, daily living, limb function, and motor abilities, they concluded the findings were limited by small samples and poor reporting.
Studies of acupressure for other conditions such as angina, diabetes, heart rate, chronic fatigue syndrome, and peripheral artery disease were also reviewed, but in most cases the studies were limited by lack of controls, very small sample sizes, poor reporting, and unclear outcome measures. At the same time, many of these studies reported positive outcomes.
According to this review, the best indications for acupressure are for pain, nausea, sleep, and vomiting. However, the limited findings from other studies of acupressure should not be discounted, as they suggest this simple practice could be helpful for many more ailments.
Robinson N et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011, 11:88
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