What is it?
Acupressure is a common treatment used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is similar to acupuncture, but uses pressure in place of needles.
Acupressure is used for many types of pain, especially back pain and menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea). It is also used for many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these other uses.
Possibly Effective for …
- Back pain. There is some evidence that treatment with acupressure might reduce back pain and disability better than physical therapy in people with ongoing low back pain. Adding aromatherapy to acupressure also helps with low back pain. Non-traditional types of acupressure, such as a special back rest and ear acupressure, also seem to help.
- Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea). Receiving acupressure from a practitioner or a specific tool seems to reduce pain in women and adolescents with painful periods. Self-administered acupressure also seems to improve painful periods.
Possibly Ineffective for …
- Childbirth. Acupressure does not seem to help initiate labor or reduce the chances of having a caesarean section (“C-section”).
Insufficient Evidence to Make a Determination for …
- Hay fever. Early research shows that acupressure seems to improve sneezing, runny nose, and eye problems in children and adults with hay fever.
- Anxiety. Acupressure seems to reduce anxiety in people transported to the hospital after serious or minor injuries.
- Asthma. Early research shows that receiving acupressure along with regular asthma treatments seems to improve symptoms and quality of life in people with severe asthma.
- Athletic performance. Early research shows that ear acupressure might reduce muscle fatigue and improve oxygen use after exercise in healthy men.
- Ability to pay attention. Early research shows that self-administering stimulating acupressure seems to reduce sleepiness and improve alertness more than another form of acupressure, called relaxing acupressure.
- Breast cancer. Early research shows that acupressure doesn’t seem to improve quality of life in people with breast cancer. But it might help a small amount with nausea, vomiting, or pain in the arm or breast.
- A lung condition in which the airways become enlarged and scarred (bronchiectasis). Self-administered acupressure seems to improve some aspects of quality of life in people with bronchiectasis. But it doesn’t seem to make breathing easier or improve walking distance.
- Pain in people with cancer. Early research shows that acupressure seems to reduce pain in people with cancer.
- Nausea and vomiting caused by cancer drug treatment. Research results disagree about the effectiveness of acupressure for nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. Acupressure might help reduce nausea but not vomiting from cancer treatment. Also, acupressure wristbands seem to work better than no treatment, but they do not seem to work better than “placebo” wristbands.
- Tiredness in people treated with cancer drugs. Developing research shows that self-administered acupressure can decrease fatigue in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Acupressure with essential oils also seems to improve sleep and function in people being treated for cancer.
- A lung disease that makes it harder to breathe (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD). There is some evidence that acupressure improves shortness of breath and depression in people with COPD.
- Constipation. In people with constipation who are increasing dietary fiber and exercise and using stool softeners when needed, early research shows that self-acupressure might help to improve constipation even more.
- Diseases, such as Alzheimer disease, that interfere with thinking (dementia). Early research shows that getting acupressure for 4 weeks might reduce agitation in people with dementia.
- Depression. Early research in older people with depression shows that acupressure can help improve mood. But it might not work better than “sham” (placebo) acupressure.
- Diabetes. Early research shows that doing self-acupressure once might reduce blood sugar by a small amount.
- Serious kidney disease (end-stage renal disease or ESRD). Early research shows that acupressure can improve itchiness, constipation, depression, fatigue, and sleep by a small amount in people with this condition.
- Fractures. Some clinical research shows that acupressure reduces pain and anxiety immediately after hip and wrist fractures.
- A group of eye disorders that can lead to vision loss (glaucoma). Early research shows that ear acupressure might help to reduce pressure in the eye in people with glaucoma.
- High blood pressure. Early research shows that ear acupressure might help to reduce blood pressure by a small amount.
- Insomnia. Early research shows that giving acupressure might improve sleep quality in patients with insomnia or sleep disturbance.
- Labor pain. Early research shows that acupressure might slightly reduce pain and the use of pain medicine during labor. Each treatment lasts about an hour.
- Migraine. Early research shows that acupressure does not reduce pain and migraine attacks in people who are already taking the drug valproate.
- Motion sickness. Evidence regarding acupressure for motion sickness is mixed. Some research shows that acupressure does not reduce motion sickness. However other research shows that acupressure might reduce nausea and motion sickness when it is mimicked in the lab.
- Fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Early research shows that acupressure might help to reduce tiredness in people with MS.
- Nausea and vomiting. Early research shows that wearing an acupressure wristband might reduce vomiting after taking activated charcoal for detoxification. However, the wristband does not seem to help reduce nausea and vomiting after a heart attack.
- Neck pain. Early research shows that ear acupressure might improve stiffness and flexibility in people with neck pain. Also, acupressure massage with lavender oil seems to improve pain, stiffness, and flexibility of the neck in people with neck pain.
- Bed-wetting. Early research shows that acupressure might decrease nightly bed-wetting in children.
- Obesity. Most early research shows that some types of acupressure help with weight loss by a small amount, even in people following a weight-reduction diet and exercise program. Also, acupressure might help to maintain weight loss.
- Osteoarthritis. Early research shows that acupressure might not work better than “sham” (placebo) acupressure for osteoarthritis pain.
- Acute pain. Early research shows that acupressure seems to decrease pain from trauma or injury, or from inserting a needle into the skin.
- Impaired movement of food through the intestines after surgery. Early research shows that acupressure might improve bowel movements after surgical removal of the uterus.
- Nausea and vomiting after surgery. It is unclear if acupressure helps reduce nausea and vomiting after surgery. There is some evidence that passive acupressure using wristbands (Sea-Band) reduces nausea and vomiting after some gynecological and ear surgeries. However, acupressure wristbands do not seem to work any better than “sham” (placebo) wristbands for reducing nausea and vomiting after surgery.
- Pain after surgery. Most early research shows that acupressure improves pain in people after surgery. But some research disagrees.
- Morning sickness. Most early research shows that applying acupressure with the fingers or a wristband can help reduce morning sickness. But some research shows that it might not work better than “sham” (placebo) wristbands or as well as vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). In pregnant women who are hospitalized for severe nausea and vomiting, wristband acupressure also does not seem to help.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Early research shows that acupressure near the thumb or the top of the foot might help to reduce symptoms of PMS.
- Anxiety before surgery. Most early research shows that acupressure reduces anxiety by a small amount before surgery or other medical procedures. Regular acupressure also seems to reduce anxiety in parents of children that will have surgery. But some research shows that it might not work better than “sham” (placebo) acupressure.
- Sexual problems that prevent satisfaction during sexual activity. Early research shows that acupressure massage might reduce pain and discomfort during sex in women with sexual problems.
- Shoulder pain. There is some early evidence that acupressure twice daily for 2 weeks might reduce shoulder pain in stroke patients.
- Quitting smoking. Early research shows that ear acupressure does not make nicotine replacement therapy more effective for reducing withdrawal symptoms.
- Nausea and vomiting during surgery. Early research shows that passive acupressure using wristbands (Sea-Band) before caesarean delivery (“C-section”) does not decrease nausea and vomiting.
- Stress. Early research shows that acupressure reduces stress in healthy people.
- Stroke. Early research shows that receiving full-body acupressure might improve symptoms in people with paralysis due to stroke.
- Dizziness (vertigo). There is some early evidence that using acupressure wristbands (Sea-Band) might help reduce nausea, vomiting, and sweating in people with vertigo.
- Bipolar disorder.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence).
- Dry mouth.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Motion sickness.
- Muscle injury.
- Nerve pain.
- A group of painful conditions that affect the jaw joint and muscle (temporomandibular disorders or TMD).
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of acupressure for these uses.
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.
Acupressure is POSSIBLY SAFE when used appropriately in children.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Acupressure seems to be POSSIBLY SAFE during pregnancy and breast-feeding when used appropriately.
Natural Medicines disclaims any responsibility related to medical consequences of using any medical product. Effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this monograph is accurate at the time it was published. Consumers and medical professionals who consult this monograph are cautioned that any medical or product related decision is the sole responsibility of the consumer and/or the health care professional. A legal License Agreement sets limitations on downloading, storing, or printing content from this Database. Except for any possible exceptions written into your License Agreement, no reproduction of this monograph or any content from this Database is permitted without written permission from the publisher. Unlawful to download, store, or distribute content from this site.
For the latest comprehensive data on this and every other natural medicine, health professionals should consult the Professional Version of the Natural Medicines. It is fully referenced and updated daily.
© Copyright 1995-2021. Therapeutic Research Faculty, publishers of Natural Medicines, Prescriber’s Letter, and Pharmacist’s Letter. All rights reserved.