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Acupressure for Health

January 31, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Acupressure is technique used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that is quite similar to acupuncture. Instead of needles, instruments or fingers apply direct pressure on specific points of the body in order to alleviate symptoms or to support various organs or systems of the body.

Acupressure is widely used in Asia, but it hasn’t been fully accepted by the Western medical establishment. Part of the reason is that Western medicine uses science as the predominant method for determining whether a practice or therapy is effective. For most of acupressure’s history, it has relied on non-scientific word of mouth for its positive reputation.

In recent years, however, both Eastern and Western medicine have worked together to scientifically test the efficacy of this form of physical therapy. Today I’m going to share some of the current findings on this ancient practice. In particular, I want to focus on chronic conditions that may benefit from this safe and natural practice.

Acupressure on headAcupressure vs. Dysmenorrhea

Dysmenorrhea refers to a pain condition that accompanies a woman’s monthly cycle. Most women experience some degree of pain and discomfort during that time of the month. But in the case of dysmenorrhea, the pain is classified as being severe and often debilitating.

A Korean study, in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, set out to determine whether acupressure could help alleviate some of the more acute effects of dysmenorrhea.

58 college-aged women participated in this experiment. Half of the women were subjected to a course of acupressure to a specific point, known as the “SP6 acupoint”. The other half were used as a “control” group, to help provide a comparison to the acupressure treatment group.

The treatment group received acupressure within 8 hours of menstruation. The researchers measured the symptoms relating to dysmenorrhea before the acupressure was applied, 30 minutes afterward and also at the 1, 2 and 3 hour mark – following the administration of acupressure.

The researchers found that there was a significant reduction in the severity of symptoms immediately after treatment. The effect appeared to last for up to 2 hours after the treatment ended.

As a result of these findings, the authors concluded that acupressure, “can be an effective non-invasive nursing intervention for alleviation of primary dysmenorrhea, with effects lasting 2h post treatment.”

Pregnancy Support via Acupressure

One of the most common and unwelcome symptoms of pregnancy is “morning sickness”. In February of 2008, a study appeared in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice that examined the role that acupressure can play in easing pregnancy related nausea and vomiting.

Before I discuss the specifics of the trial, I want to note that the researchers specifically recruited pregnant women who could not take conventional medications to treat their symptoms. During pregnancy many doctors and their patients try to avoid giving and taking medications if it’s not absolutely required.

In this study, a group of 26 women were asked to wear an “acupressure band” for 3 days. The (wrist)band applied pressure to the P(6) acupressure point – which is indicated for stomachaches, vomiting and a whole host of unrelated symptoms. A separate group of women also wore an acupressure wristband, but did not have therapeutic pressure applied to the P(6) point.

The group that wore the wristband (applying pressure to the P(6) point) found an improvement in the control and/or alleviation of “morning sickness” symptoms.

Acupressure on palmCatching Some Z’s with Acupuncture

If you go into a conventional doctor’s office and complain of sleeping problems, you’ll likely walk out with a prescription for a powerful sleeping pill, and that pill may or may not work for you. But what you can count on is the need to continue taking that pill  long term – unless you find a way to address the underlying cause of your sleeplessness. Acupressure may provide an alternative to sleep medications. A few recent studies provide evidence to support this mind/body option.

Two studies were released in December of 2008. The first one enrolled 25 volunteers with sleep disorders. All of the volunteers had the HT 7 acupressure point stimulated every night for two weeks. In this instance, a medical device was used instead of a practitioner’s fingers or a wristband.

60% of the volunteers (15 of the  25) experienced an improvement in sleep quality. As an interesting side note, 14 of the 25 volunteers were also suffering from cancer. In those participants, the rate of efficacy was even higher, at a 79% success rate.

A second study was published that same month to determine if stimulating the HT 7 acupressure point might have some effect on melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone produced primarily by the pineal gland. The brain produces it to help control sleep and wake cycles. Melatonin is directly involved in our normal sleep patterns. Therefore, many people use supplemental melatonin to help promote a good night’s rest.

In this current study, 40 people with insomnia were split up into two groups. One group received pressure therapy on their HT 7 point, while the other group did not.This trial lasted a total of 20 nights.

Both groups were asked to complete medical questionnaires relating to their levels of anxiety and sleep quality. Urine samples were also collected to determine the amount of melatonin in their systems.

The authors of the study examined all the questionnaires and the biological samples and found that there was a reduction in anxiety and an improvement in sleep quality in those volunteers that received the acupressure treatment. There was another finding that may help to explain this result. The patients receiving acupressure had higher levels of melatonin. A greater number of the treatment group had what was considered “normal” melatonin levels. No safety issues were found with the use of the acupressure medical device.

Acupressure is a form of therapy that you can receive from a trained health professional, a commercial wrist band or a medical device. You can even apply it to yourself by using a self-help book.

It’s one of many natural options that, if effective for you, can allow you to avoid the use of certain medications and could conceivably improve the quality of your life.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Women's Health

5 Comments & Updates to “Acupressure for Health”

  1. JP Says:

    Update: Acupressure supports healthier breast milk production …


    Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2015 Jan-Feb;20(1):7-11.

    Effect of acupressure on milk volume of breastfeeding mothers referring to selected health care centers in Tehran.

    BACKGROUND: Breast milk is the main food source for infants’ growth and development. Insufficient milk is one of the obstacles to the adequate use of this substance. One of the treatments to help this issue is acupressure. Therefore, the present study was designed to determine the effect of acupressure on maternal milk volume.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: This study is a randomized clinical trial in which 60 breastfeeding mothers complaining of hypogalactia and meeting the inclusion criteria were studied. In addition to providing routine education, bilateral acupressure was performed for 12 consequentia l days on the acupoints of SI1, LI4, and GB21 in the intervention group, as three sessions per week with each session conducted 2-5 times. The control group received only routine education. In both groups, breast milk volume before intervention and 2 and 4 weeks after intervention was evaluated by an electric pump. Data were analyzed by descriptive and inferential statistical analysis through SPSS.

    RESULTS: The t-test showed no significant difference in the mean volume of milk in the two groups (P = 0.543). Mean volumes of milk before and 2 and 4 weeks after the intervention were 10.5 (8.3), 33 (13.44), and 36.2 (12.8), respectively, in the acupressure group and 9.5 (7.7), 17.7 (9.4), 18 (9.5), respectively, in the control group. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) test showed a significant difference in the mean volume of milk at 2 and 4 weeks after the intervention (P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Both acupressure and general education methods were effective on the milk volume of breastfeeding mothers. Acupressure method was more effective than the other method. Therefore, application of acupressure as a method of alternative medicine to increase breastfeeding is suggested. Be well! JP

  2. JP Says:

    Update 04/20/15:


    BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015, 15:93

    Comparison of the efficacy of aroma-acupressure and aromatherapy for the treatment of dementia-associated agitation

    Background: One of the most common symptoms observed in patients with dementia is agitation, and several non-pharmacological treatments have been used to control this symptom. However, because of limitations in research design, the benefit of non-pharmacological treatments has only been demonstrated in certain cases. The purpose of this study was to compare aroma-acupressure and aromatherapy with respect to their effects on agitation in patients with dementia.

    Methods: In this experimental study, the participants were randomly assigned to three groups: 56 patients were included in the aroma-acupressure group, 73 patients in the aromatherapy group, and 57 patients in the control group who received daily routine as usual without intervention. The Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI) scale and the heart rate variability (HRV) index were used to assess differences in agitation. The CMAI was used in the pre-test, post-test and post-three-week test, and the HRV was used in the pre-test, the post-test and the post-three-week test as well as every week during the four-week interventions.

    Results: The CMAI scores were significantly lower in the aroma-acupressure and aromatherapy groups compared with the control group in the post-test and post-three-week assessments. Sympathetic nervous activity was significantly lower in the fourth week in the aroma-acupressure group and in the second week in the aromatherapy group, whereas parasympathetic nervous activity increased from the second week to the fourth week in the aroma-acupressure group and in the fourth week in the aromatherapy group.

    Conclusions: Aroma-acupressure had a greater effect than aromatherapy on agitation in patients with dementia. However, agitation was improved in both of the groups, which allowed the patients with dementia to become more relaxed. Future studies should continue to assess the benefits of aroma-acupressure and aromatherapy for the treatment of agitation in dementia patients.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 07/15/15:


    Iran J Med Sci. 2015 Jul;40(4):328-34.

    The Effect of Acupressure on Sleep Quality in Menopausal Women: A Randomized Control Trial.

    BACKGROUND: One of the common problems in menopausal women is sleep disorder. Traditional Chinese acupressure is a noninvasive and safe technique. Menopausal women can easily learn the technique and a self-care method to manage their sleep disorder. This study was carried out to evaluate the effectiveness of acupressure on sleep quality of postmenopausal women in Mashhad during 2009.

    METHODS: This double blind, randomized clinical trial was performed on 120 qualified menopausal women at the age of 41-65 years. Their sleep quality was measured according to the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Participants were randomly assigned to an acupressure group (n=37), a sham acupressure group (n=36) and a control group (n=32) by two time randomized method (systematic and simple randomized). These interventions were carried out for four consecutive weeks. The participants in the acupressure and sham acupressure groups learned to carry out the acupressure technique as a self-care at home with simultaneous massage techniques that were to be performed 2 hours before sleep, whereas only conversation was used in the control group. The data were analyzed by the SPSS software version 17.

    RESULTS: The results indicated significant differences in total PSQI scores among the three groups (P<0.001). Tukey’s test revealed that there were significant differences between the acupressure group and the control group (P<0.001), the acupressure group and sham acupressure group (P<0.001), and the sham acupressure and the control group (P<0.001).

    CONCLUSION: Acupressure can be used as a complementary treatment to relieve sleep disorders in menopausal women; and is offered as an efficient method to manage sleep quality.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Updated 02/23/16:


    J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2016 Feb;9(1):11-5.

    Acupressure on Self-Reported Sleep Quality During Pregnancy.

    The aim of this study was to investigate the short-term effect of acupression at the H7 point on sleep quality during pregnancy. After oral consent had been obtained, the midwife invited the women claiming to have poor sleep quality and anxiety symptoms to complete the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index questionnaire and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-1. Then, the same midwife, previously trained by an expert acupuncturist (I.N.), advised the women to put on the wrist overnight compression H7 Insomnia Control half an hour before going to bed and to take it off upon awakening, for 10 consecutive days and thereafter every odd day (active group). Women refusing to wear the device for low compliance toward acupression were considered as the control group. After 2 weeks, a second questionnaire evaluation was completed. In the active, but not in the control, group, a significant improvement of sleep quality was observed after H7 device application. The study suggests that H7 acupression applied for 2 weeks improves sleep quality in pregnant women. This preliminary result should serve to stimulate further studies on the long-term effects of acupression.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 06/27/16:


    Res Nurs Health. 2016 Jun 21.

    The Effects of Acupressure Training on Sleep Quality and Cognitive Function of Older Adults: A 1-Year Randomized Controlled Trial.

    We explored the effects of acupressure training on older adults’ sleep quality and cognitive function. Ninety older adults with impaired sleep quality were selected from screened volunteers and randomly divided into equal control and experimental groups; 82 completed the 1-year follow-up. Participants in the control group were given instructions on sleep health, while those in the experimental group received sleep health instructions plus individual and small group acupressure training sessions and support to practice the intervention on their own each day. All participants were assessed by trained assistants blind to study group allocation using Chinese versions of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, the Mini-Mental State Examination, and four subscales from the revised Chinese version of the Wechsler Memory Scale, at baseline and at 3, 6, and 12 months. Repeated measures analysis of variance showed that acupressure training improved older adults’ sleep quality and cognitive function, but the mediating effect of sleep on the relationship between acupressure training and cognitive function was not supported. Given the ease, simplicity, and safety of acupressure training observed with community-dwelling older adults in China, attempts should be made to replicate these preliminary positive findings with larger samples.

    Be well!


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