ACUPRESSURE Overview Information
Acupressure is a common treatment used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is similar to acupuncture, but does not use needles.
Acupressure is used for pain, nerve pain (neuropathy), low back pain, jaw pain (temporomandibular joint dysfunction, TMJ), and migraine headache. It is also used for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, trouble sleeping (insomnia), schizophrenia, dementia, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Women use acupressure for painful menstrual periods, pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting, and labor pain.
Other uses include treatment of fatigue, nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy, motion sickness, and vertigo; lung disorders including chronic enlargement of the airways (bronchiectasis) and chronic obstructive lung diseases (COPD) such as asthma and emphysema; irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); stroke; bed-wetting; inability to control urination (incontinence); dry mouth; and many other conditions.
How does it work?
Acupressure is a common treatment used in traditional Chinese medicine. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but acupressure does not use needles. Acupressure involves applying pressure using hands, thumbs, fingers, or devices to specific parts or points on the body along pathways called “meridians.” The purpose is to stimulate points that correspond to specific organs, emotions, or sensory feelings. For example, acupressure around the ear, feet, and hands targets the pain of labor.
Acupressure can be applied by a practitioner or self-administered. Passive acupressure devices have been developed, such as wrist bands that allow people to apply pressure at a specific location for a particular outcome.
In traditional Chinese medicine, it is thought that disease is caused by an imbalance or blocked flow of energy or “qi.” Therefore, acupressure is thought to stimulate energy flow, unblock energy, and rebalance energy, which results in healing.
Most acupressure points are located near nerves. Researchers suggest that applying pressure at these points may block transmission of pain signals.
Some experts also suggest that acupressure might result in the release of natural pain relievers called endorphins and opioids, and also brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals can naturally reduce pain and affect mood.
- Chronic enlargement of the airways (bronchiectasis). Self-administered acupressure seems to improve some aspects of quality of life in people with bronchiectasis. But it doesn’t appear to make breathing easier or improve walking distance.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including asthma and emphysema. There is some evidence that acupressure for 4 weeks significantly improves shortness of breath, the blood’s uptake of oxygen, and depression in people with COPD.
- Dementia. Early research suggests that acupressure for 4 weeks might reduce agitation in people with dementia.
- Fatigue related to cancer treatment. Developing research suggests that self-administered acupressure can significantly reduce general fatigue in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy; however, acupuncture appears to be more effective than self-administered acupressure.
- Low back pain. There is some evidence that treatment with acupressure for 1 month works better than physical therapy in reducing pain and disability in people with ongoing low back pain.
- Nausea and vomiting related to cancer treatment. Research results disagree about the effectiveness of acupressure for nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy. Some studies show that passive acupressure using wrist bands (Sea-Band, Sea-Band Ltd., Hinckley, UK) significantly reduces nausea and vomiting compared to usual care in women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. Other studies show no benefit during chemotherapy, but do suggest that wrist band acupressure might reduce delayed nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients. Some researchers also looked at the combined effects of acupressure and acupuncture, but found that this combination doesn’t help much in reducing nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing the type of chemotherapy that is especially likely to cause nausea and vomiting.
- Nausea and vomiting after surgery. There is some evidence that passive acupressure using wrist bands (Sea-Band) significantly reduces nausea and vomiting after some gynecological surgeries.
- Nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy (morning sickness). Developing research suggests that passive acupressure using wrist bands (Sea-Band, Sea-Band Ltd., Hinckley, UK) doesn’t reduce morning sickness during the first trimester as well as vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) does. In pregnant women who are hospitalized for severe nausea and vomiting, wrist band acupressure also does not decrease the need for anti-nausea medication, length of hospital stay, or the need for IV (intravenous) fluids.
- Nausea and vomiting after spinal anesthesia. Early research shows that passive acupressure using wrist bands (Sea-Band) before spinal anesthesia for cesarean delivery does not significantly decrease nausea and vomiting.
- Painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea). There is some evidence that acupressure applied within 8 hours of the onset of menstruation significantly reduces the severity of cramps immediately after treatment and for up to 2 hours after treatment.
- Stroke. There is some evidence that acupressure and aromatherapy acupressure twice daily for 2 weeks significantly reduces shoulder pain in stroke patients.
- Smoking cessation. Early research suggests that acupressure near the ear does not make nicotine replacement therapy more effective in reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
- Weight loss. There is some evidence that people receiving a specific acupressure technique (Tapas Acupressure Technique) maintained greater weight loss than people in a weight loss support group or people receiving qi gong therapy after 24 weeks.
- Vertigo. There is some evidence that passive acupressure using wrist bands (Sea-Band, Sea-Band Ltd., Hinckley, UK) might help reduce nausea, vomiting, and sweating in people with vertigo.
- Nerve pain.
- Labor pain.
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).
- Migraine headache.
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia).
- Bipolar disorder.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Bed-wetting (enuresis).
- Difficulty controlling urination (incontinence).
- Dry mouth.
- Motion sickness.
- Other conditions.
ACUPRESSURE Side Effects & Safety
There are no known safety concerns when acupressure is used appropriately.