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Acupressure News and Reviews

March 10, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Prospective consumers tend to categorize alternative and complementary therapies on a subconscious level. The fact of the matter is that some holistic techniques seem more reasonable than others. This is often a consequence of the culture and medical care to which we’ve been exposed throughout our lives. Human nature generally dictates that we gravitate to that which is familiar. With that in mind, allow me to suggest that esoteric healing techniques afford something rather profound to us all: an opportunity to expand our horizons and experience the world in a broader context.

Acupressure is an ancient healing modality that employs the application of finger or palm pressure to specific acupoints on the body. The acupoints in question correlate to various organs and systems that may be dysfunctional. For over 4,000 years, healers have employed this practice in the management of both mental and physical maladies including asthma, drug addiction, labor pain and even weight loss.

The past few months have provided a treasure trove of evidence supporting the modern use of acupressure.

Acupressure for Dysmenorrhoea – The February 2010 edition of the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine reviewed the current state of research regarding acupressure in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps and pain). The Korean scientists conducting the analysis identified 4 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving a total of 458 participants. Two of the studies “reported significant improvements in the severity of pain for acupressure compared with sham acupressure on non-acupoints”. The remaining trials documented positive changes in anxiety and reductions in the use of pain medication in those receiving acupressure treatment. One of the studies specifically looked for evidence of adverse reactions and did not find any. Overall, the authors commented that, “The available data from RCTs suggest that acupressure alleviates menstrual pain”. However they cautiously added that, “These results were limited by the small number of trials. Well-designed RCTs with rigorous methods of randomization and adequately concealed allocation are needed”. (1)

Acupressure for Post-Stroke Care – An experiment recently conducted at the University of Colorado at Boulder examined the relative merits of applying acupressure in a group of stroke patients. Previous inquiries postulate that acupressure may “positively affect heart rate and blood pressure”. A specific form of acupressure known as Jin Shin was used in the 16 stroke survivors who participated in the trial. Over the course of 8 weeks, the study volunteers received Jin Shin acupressure or placebo acupressure. The treatment period was followed by a washout phase, after which the groups underwent the opposite treatment as part of a crossover study design. A consistent benefit in relation to heart rate was found during the Jin Shin intervention. The conclusion of the trial states that, “Active acupressure reduced heart rate significantly more than did placebo acupressure during treatments. Although no treatment effect on blood pressure was found, this could be due to 67% of participants taking antihypertensive medications during the study”. (2)

Acupressure for Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea – One of the biggest hurdles in the administration of chemotherapy is the tolerability factor. A trial appearing in the February 2010 issue of the European Journal of Oncology Nursing suggests that acupressure may be a valuable tool for patients undergoing conventional cancer treatment. A wristband (Sea-Band) that stimulates the P6 or Neiguan acupoint was applied to 34 women with gynecologic cancer. Pre and post-tests indicate that the patients wearing the acupressure wristband demonstrated a decline in nausea severity and a reduction in retching and vomiting episodes. The researchers also noted a decline in the dependence of antiemetic medication use to help manage symptoms. (3)

Acupressure for Insomnia – A different acupoint was the focus of a Taiwanese study recently published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies. The Shenmen point (also known as HT7) has been traditionally associated with sleep quality. In order to scientifically test this historical claim, researchers from Taipei Medical University enlisted 50 men and women with insomnia to participate in a randomized controlled trial. Half of the study volunteers were provided with “standard acupressure on the HT7 points of both wrists”. The remainder or the control group “received only light touch” at the same wrist acupoint. The duration of the study was 5 weeks and the researchers utilized the Athens Insomnia Scale-Taiwan form (AIS-T) and patient questionnaires as a means of quantifying pre and post trial sleep quality. Not only did the acupressure improve insomnia symptoms during the treatment period, but the benefits extended for an additional 2 months after the completion of the study. (4)

Acupressure for Chronic Headache Pain – Chronic headaches are sometimes treated with muscle relaxant medications. Researchers from the Department of Rehabilitation at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan recently conducted a head-to-head comparison of these medications versus acupressure in 28 patients diagnosed with chronic headache. Baseline measures of “self-appraised pain scores” and headache related quality of life were documented at the beginning of the study, after one month of treatment and at a 6 month follow-up examination. Pain ratings, based on a “visual analog scale” were significantly lower in the acupressure group – 32.9 vs 55.7 in the medicated test subjects. These benefits were present at the 6 month follow-up as well. The authors of the study summarized their findings as such: “our study suggests that 1 month of acupressure treatment is more effective in reducing chronic headache than 1 month of muscle relaxant treatment, and that the effect remains 6 months after treatment”. (5)

Acupressure vs. Medication in the Management of Nausea

Vomiting Eplsodes
P value
None 6 (11.5%) 32 (60.4%) 41 (8.45%) 0.001
1-2 37 (71.2%) 21 (39.6%) 10 (19.6%)
3-5 9 (17.3%) 0 0
Values are number of patients and percentage of total for that treatment group.
Source: Ann Saudi Med 2008;28:287-91 (link)

There are two divergent theories about how acupressure works. The traditional Asian philosophy suggests that illness and pain are often the result of a system that is out of balance. The blockage of energy flow at one or more meaningful spots in the body (known as meridians) is thought to cause this imbalance. Applying pressure to the blocked acupoints or medians allows for “life energy” to flow more freely. A visual example is a traffic jam. Acupressure alleviates the congestion in a vulnerable location in the body and allows for energy/traffic to flow better in every direction.

The western interpretation of acupuncture is based squarely on established chemical and physiological reactions that occur within the body. According to modern science, acupressure likely exerts its positive effects by improving circulation, reducing muscle pain and tension and stimulating the release of endorphins (“feel good” hormones). The very act of increasing blood flow to an sensitive location can stimulate healing by increasing access to nutrients and oxygen in the damaged tissue. In addition, inflammatory substances and injury related toxins can be shuttled out of the area more efficiently in the presence of optimal circulation. (6)

If you’re still not entirely comfortable with the idea of acupressure, consider this: Shiatsu massage is a Japanese form of acupressure. Many non-holistic types have enjoyed some form of Shiatsu at one point or another. The benefits of such a treatment are obvious to anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of trying it. But what’s not so apparent are the underpinnings of this rejuvenating massage technique. Shiatsu practitioners purposefully stimulate acupoints throughout the session. The principal intent is to clear blockages in energy flow that may contribute to poor systemic health and trapped tension in the musculoskeletal system. The end result is that you generally feel incredible afterward. Part of the reason for this sensation is likely thanks to acupressure.

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, Heart Health, Women's Health

7 Comments & Updates to “Acupressure News and Reviews”

  1. Nina K. Says:

    Morning JP 🙂

    always a pleasure to read your blog in the morning :-). Great post!

    Nina K.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Nina! 🙂

    You’re such a positive presence on this site. I really appreciate it!

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update: Acupressure reduces knee arthritis pain …


    J Advanc Res. 2014 Mar;5(2):193-200.

    Effectiveness of acupressure versus isometric exercise on pain, stiffness, and physical function in knee osteoarthritis female patients.

    Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and a leading cause of disability in older adults. Conservative non-pharmacological strategies, particularly exercise, are recommended by clinical guidelines for its management. The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of acupressure versus isometric exercise on pain, stiffness, and physical function in knee OA female patients. This quasi experimental study was conducted at the inpatient and outpatient sections at Al-kasr Al-Aini hospital, Cairo University. It involved three groups of 30 patients each: isometric exercise, acupressure, and control. Data were collected by an interview form and the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis index (WOMAC) scale. The study revealed high initial scores of pain, stiffness, and impaired physical functioning. After the intervention, pain decreased in the two intervention groups compared to the control group (p < 0.001), while the scores of stiffness and impaired physical function were significantly lower in the isometric group (p < 0.001) compared to the other two groups. The decrease in the total WOMAC score was sharper in the two study groups compared to the control group. In multiple linear regression, the duration of illness was a positive predictor of WOMAC score, whereas the intervention is associated with a reduction in the score. In conclusion, isometric exercise and acupressure provide an improvement of pain, stiffness, and physical function in patients with knee OA. Since isometric exercise leads to more improvement of stiffness and physical function, while acupressure acts better on pain, a combination of both is recommended. The findings need further confirmation through a randomized clinical trial. Be well! JP

  4. 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

  5. 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!


  6. 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!


  7. 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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