What is it?
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.
Possibly Effective for …
- Low 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.
- Painful periods. 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 caesarian section (“C-section”).
Insufficient Evidence to Make a Determination for …
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 seem to make breathing easier or improve walking distance.
- Nausea and vomiting related to cancer 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.
- Fatigue related to cancer treatment. 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.
- Kidney disease. Early research shows that acupressure modestly improves depression, fatigue and sleep in people with kidney disease.
- A lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There is some evidence that acupressure improves shortness of breath and depression in people with COPD.
- Dementia. Early research shows that getting acupressure for 4 weeks might reduce agitation in people with dementia.
- Bed-wetting. Early research shows that acupressure might decrease nightly bet-wetting in children.
- Exercise performance. Early research shows that ear acupressure might reduce muscle fatigue and improve oxygen use after exercise in healthy men.
- Fractures. Some clinical research shows that acupressure reduces pain and anxiety immediately after hip and wrist fractures.
- Labor pain. Early research shows that acupressure might slightly reduce pain and the use of pain medicine during labor.
- 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.
- 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 acupressure massage with lavender oil improves pain, stiffness, and flexibility of the neck in people with neck pain.
- Pain. Early research shows that acupressure seems to decrease the pain of inserting a needle into the skin. Ear acupressure seems to reduce pain in people with cancer.
- Recovery after surgical removal of the uterus. 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. The effects of acupressure in pain after surgery are mixed. Some research shows that acupressure does not improve pain or decrease use of pain drugs in people after stomach surgery. However, ear acupressure does seem to help reduce pain in some patients.
- Nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy (morning sickness). Early research shows that applying acupressure with the fingers or a wristband can help reduce morning sickness. However, it might not work better than “sham” (placebo) wristbands. It also does not seem to work as well as vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). In pregnant women who are hospitalized for severe nausea and vomiting, wristband acupressure also does not help with nausea or vomiting.
- Anxiety before surgery. Early research shows that both real and “sham” (placebo) acupressure reduce anxiety before surgery. Also, ear acupressure seems to reduce anxiety in children who are about to have surgery. Regular acupressure also seems to reduce anxiety in parents of children that will have surgery.
- Sexual dysfunction. Early research shows that acupressure massage might reduce pain and discomfort during sex in women with sexual problems.
- Stroke. There is some evidence that acupressure and aromatherapy acupressure twice daily for 2 weeks might reduce shoulder pain in stroke patients.
- Sleep quality. Early research shows that giving acupressure to elderly people living in the hospital or long-term care facilities can improve their sleep quality.
- Smoking cessation. Early research shows that ear acupressure does not make nicotine replacement therapy more effective in reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
- Nausea and vomiting after spinal anesthesia. Early research shows that passive acupressure using wristbands (Sea-Band) before cesarean delivery (“C-section”) does not decrease nausea and vomiting.
- Stress. Acupressure seems to reduce stress in people transported to the hospital after serious or minor injuries. Early research also 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.
- Vertigo. There is some evidence that using acupressure wristbands (Sea-Band) might help reduce nausea, vomiting, and sweating in people with vertigo.
- Weight loss. There is some evidence that people receiving a specific acupressure technique (Tapas Acupressure Technique) were able to maintain their weight loss better for 24 weeks than people in a weight loss support group or people receiving qi gong therapy. However, ear acupressure does not seem to improve weight loss.
- Bipolar disorder.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Difficulty controlling urination (incontinence).
- Dry mouth.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Nerve pain.
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia).
- 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.
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