Acupressure and Massage NewsOctober 26, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Mind-body therapies such acupressure and massage are entering the mainstream of modern medicine. These non-invasive techniques are proving themselves both in controlled scientific studies and in the “eyes” of health care consumers worldwide. Conventional doctors tend to be more open to these treatments because they’re unlikely to do any harm while, at the same time, they provoke positive feelings. This point of view is a bit dismissive but there’s also some logic to it. Any form of therapy that evokes positive sensations and stimulates beneficial chemical, hormonal and immunological changes in the body is likely to do some good. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in the underlying concepts or philosophy that accompanies the treatment itself.
Two newly released studies have implications for those undergoing cancer treatment. A systemic review in the November 2009 issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment examines the use of acupoint stimulation as a means of reducing “therapy-related adverse effects”. A total of 26 studies were included in the review. 23 of the trials reported successful outcomes. Acupressure, electro-acupuncture, magnet-assisted acupoint therapy and traditional acupuncture were the modalities utilized in the positive experiments. According to the authors of the summary, the stimulation of a specific acupressure point known as P6 (NeiGuang) appears to reduce chemotherapy related nausea and vomiting. (1)
A Turkish study from September 2009 tested this same acupoint in a group of 34 patients with “gynecologic cancer”. In this case, a wristband that applies consistent pressure to the P6 point was worn by patients undergoing chemotherapy. The addition of the wristband decreased the severity of nausea and reduced the amount of medication (antiemetics) used to control nausea related side effects. A decline in “retching episodes” and vomiting was also established, though to a smaller degree. The concluding remarks of the scientists indicate that “acupressure applied to P6 acupuncture point with wristbands may be effective in reducing chemotherapy related nausea and may decrease the antiemetic use after chemotherapy”. (2)
The reach of acupressure extends far beyond just serving as an adjunct to cancer treatments. For instance, applying 30 minutes of pressure to a pressure point known a SP6 (Sanyinjiao) located just above the ankle may help reduce “the duration and severity of pain of the active phase of labor, cesarean section rates and necessity and amount of oxytocin” (a hormone/medication which induces labor). New evidence also points to a role that acupressure may play in the long term management of type 2 diabetes. A 3 year study recently compared the effects of diet and lifestyle modification in a group of 80 diabetics. Half the group received frequent acupressure therapy (AT) in addition to standard care. The AT diabetics demonstrated lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides, higher levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and exhibited signs of healthier kidney, liver and nerve function. This difference seems to be directly attributable to the effect of acupressure alone or in concert with diet and exercise. (3,4)
Massage can also have a powerful impact on serious conditions such as breast cancer. A recent Swedish study examined the immune function of a group of 30 middle-aged women with breast malignancies. All the women were undergoing radiation therapy at the time of the experiment. Half of the group began a complementary course of “light pressure” massage while the remainder acted as the control group. Blood and saliva samples, blood pressure and heart rate were measured before and after each massage session. The researchers discovered that the massage group maintained better immune function (natural killer cell activity) and showed a reduction in heart rate and systolic blood pressure. (5)
Sometimes scientists set out to study one thing and they end up uncovering something quite unexpected. In October 2009, a paper was presented in the journal Multiple Sclerosis. The intention of the researchers was to test the efficacy of a type of massage known as reflexology on the pain stemming from multiple sclerosis. Reflexology involves the careful manipulation of pressure points on the sides and soles of the feet. In this trial, two types of massage were applied to a group of 73 MS patients. One group received the legitimate form of reflexology, while the others were given non-specific foot massages. Pain measures were taken pre, mid-way and post trial using a scientifically accepted index known as a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). Much to the researchers’ surprise, both groups exhibited significant reductions in depression, disability, fatigue, pain and spasms. The participants also reported a generalized improvement in their perceived quality of life. (6)
Combining massage with other therapeutic practices is also gaining ground in medical circles. Adding massage to conventional psychotherapy was recently shown to improve depression in prenatal women. A study performed at the University of Miami School of Medicine found that adding 20 minutes of massage therapy to a normal 60 minute session of “Interpersonal Psychotherapy” brought about greater reductions in anxiety, depression and stress hormone levels (cortisol). (7)
The addition of massage therapy to an exercise program can likewise improve the outcome of physiological conditions. A trial just published shows that exercise plus massage can dramatically improve the health of patients with a painful leg condition known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Beneficial changes in blood pressure and circulation were noted in the lower extremities of those engaging in this two-pronged treatment protocol. (8)
Acupressure and massage can support physical and psychological wellness by enhancing circulation and immune function, lowering blood pressure, pain, stress hormones, and even prompting the release of endorphins (the brain’s “feel good” chemicals). These types of treatments also connect us in a rather intimate way to another caring individual. Over the course of 60 minutes or so, you’re literally in the hands of a healer whose sole purpose is to help you regain your good health. It’s not often that we can allow ourselves to simply let go and become the center of attention in a genuinely constructive way. I would really love for such mind-body therapies to play a larger role in 21st century medicine. I believe the best way for that to happen is for us, as consumers and patients, to request it. Think of the possibilities – fewer drugs and more massages. Sounds good to me!
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!
Tags: Acupuncture, Massage, Pregnancy
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Heart Health, Mental Health