Acupressure is a healing technique that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since 2000 BC. It is thought that qi, or vital energy, flows through the body along certain meridian points. Qi is responsible for a person’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing, and it is presumed that illness and pain occur as a result of a disruption or blockage of qi. Acupressure relieves the blocked qi and restores balance in the body.
The practice is similar to acupuncture, however, it does not involve the use of needles. It is a form of massage that involves applying pressure with a firm finger for a few minutes directly over acupoints throughout the body. The pressure works to restore the flow of energy and relieve symptoms and ailments [i][ii].
What is acupressure used for?
It is generally used as a relaxation technique to reduce stress, increase energy, and enhance wellbeing. Proponents also claim that acupressure improves circulation, reduces muscle pain and tension, and releases accumulated toxins in the body.
Acupressure & cancer treatment
Acupressure has gained recognition within the medical community particularly with cancer patients. It is commonly used as a complementary therapy to traditional cancer treatment. Acupressure is said to help control treatment related side effects such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The pericardium 6 (P6) acupuncture point (also called Neiguan) has been studied for his antiemetic properties. It is located three finger widths below the wrist on the inner forearm in between the two tendons.
Research has shown that acupressure is beneficial in reducing the intensity of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. In one trial, women with breast cancer actively undergoing chemotherapy treatment reported less nausea, vomiting, and anxiety after receiving acupressure applied by a wristband to the P6 acupoint [iii]. Another study found that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy who received acupressure for 6 hours per day reported improvement in symptoms such as nausea and vomiting [iv].
Risks of acupressure
There are very little risks associated with acupressure. It can be performed by a trained therapist or even self-administered. When used as a complementary therapy to mainstream cancer care, it helps to reduce stress, and improve physical and emotional wellbeing. It may also be a good option for those looking for alternatives to help alleviate treatment related side effects and improve quality of life.
It is important that all patients consult their oncologist or healthcare provider before starting or undergoing any complementary therapy.