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Acupressure has a long track record in managing chronic pain, fatigue, and functional limitations. Now, a recent study affirms this reputation, finding that sufferers of chronic lower back pain who perform acupressure on themselves experience improved pain and fatigue symptoms
In their study published in the journal Pain Medicine, researchers noted that while the traditional Chinese medicine technique has been previously studied and found beneficial in individuals suffering from cancer-related or osteoarthritis pain, there are few studies probing its effectiveness in people with back pain.
Acupressure applies pressure to certain points on the body using a thumb, finger, or device, unlike its therapeutic kin acupuncture, which is performed using needles.
Acupressure Vs Usual Care of Back Pain and Fatigue
In their study, the team randomly assigned 67 participants with chronic lower back pain into three groups: those who will perform relaxing acupressure, believed to be effective in tackling insomnia; stimulating acupressure, thought to be beneficial in reducing fatigue; and usual care for their condition. [i]
Study subjects in both acupressure groups were trained to apply the technique on certain points of their body, spending 27 to 30 minutes every day on it for six weeks. The usual care group was told to carry on with their current treatments for back pain and fatigue.
The study found that those who performed stimulating acupressure had pain and fatigue improvement while those in the relaxing acupressure group felt pain improvement after six weeks.
Dr. Susan Murphy, associate professor at Michigan Medicine and the study's lead author, said chronic pain demands better treatments.
"Most treatments offered are medications, which have side effects, and in some cases, may increase the risk of abuse and addiction," she noted.
Previous research have investigated acupressure's role in pain reduction. A 2017 study probed its effect on fatigue among female nurses with chronic back pain, and concluded that doing it on specific points of the foot and back improves back pain and in turn reduces fatigue.[ii] A separate study on primary dysmenorrhea found that acupressure offered pain relief, recommending that physiotherapists consider using it and acupuncture for treating the painful condition.[iii]
Beginner Tips to Master This Low-Cost, Natural, Drug-Free Strategy Against Chronic Pain
Acupressure occupies a valued position in traditional Chinese medicine, dating back more than 2,000 years. It is still in use today as proof of its effectiveness in addressing pain and illness, particularly as an inexpensive and non-medicinal intervention without side effects.
The therapeutic practice sends a signal to the body to activate its self-healing mechanism, a stimulating method to help relax the muscles. Done regularly, it can prolong improvement as well as lessen the recurrence of pain and similar symptoms.
Self-administered acupressure can be a daunting task when done for the first time, but there are simple ways to master this method of self-massage for sustained benefits:[iv]
- Press deeply and firmly using a finger in a rotary movement or an up-and-down motion for a couple of minutes at a time.
- Different acupressure points target various issues. Liver 3 (LV3) or Tai Chong, for instance, is excellent for stimulation against stress, low back pain, limb pain, high blood pressure, insomnia, and emotional upset. You need to remove your shoe to find this acupoint.
- While doing acupressure, try to relax in an easy, comfortable position. Close your eyes and take deep breaths.
- Repeat it as often as you like, as there is virtually no limit to the frequency that you can follow in a day.
- If you cannot do it on your own, ask someone else to massage your acupoints on your behalf
[i] Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan. (2019, August 21). Lower back pain? Self-administered acupressure could help. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 27, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190821163805.htm
[ii] Maryam Movahedi et al "The effects of acupressure on pain severity in female nurses with chronic low back pain" Appl Nurs Res. 2017 Aug ;36:111-114.
[iii] Ukachukwu Okoroafor Abaraogu et al "As Acupressure Decreases Pain, Acupuncture May Improve Some Aspects of Quality of Life for Women with Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis" J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2015 Oct ;8(5):220-8. Epub 2015 Jun 20.
[iv] Explore IM Integrative Medicine - UCLA. Retrieved September 27, 2019 from https://exploreim.ucla.edu/self-care/acupressure-and-common-acupressure-points