Acupressure done at home by women who were taught the technique helped reduce pain, anxiety, and depression in women with long-term fatigue after breast cancer treatment, according to a small study.
The research was published online on Jan. 16, 2019, by the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum. Read “Impact of Self-Acupressure on Co-Occurring Symptoms in Cancer Survivors.”
What is acupressure?
Acupressure uses the fingers, thumbs, or special devices to put pressure on specific points on the body. It is part of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupressure can be done by a practitioner or it can be self-administered.
Other studies have found acupressure helps ease fatigue, sleeping problems, pain, depression, and anxiety. But no study had looked at using acupressure to treat multiple side effects at the same time in women treated for breast cancer.
In this study, the researchers looked at two different types of acupressure: relaxing acupressure and stimulating acupressure.
Relaxing acupressure is traditionally used to treat insomnia. Stimulating acupressure is used to increase energy. These two types of acupressure are different in that they put pressure on different points on the body.
How this study was done
This study included 288 women who said they were experiencing fatigue along with anxiety, depression, and/or pain after breast cancer treatment. The women had been diagnosed with stage 0-III breast cancer, and treatment was completed a year or more before the study started.
The women were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups:
- relaxing acupressure
- stimulating acupressure
- usual care
Women in the two acupressure groups were taught how to find and put pressure on the specific points on their bodies so they could perform acupressure at home once per day for 6 weeks.
Women in the usual care group were given handouts on how to better manage their depression, anxiety, and pain.
The researchers measured the women’s levels of anxiety, depression, and pain before the study started and again after the study was completed.
At the beginning of the study:
- 193 women reported chronic pain
- 92 women were considered to have depression
- 142 women were considered to have anxiety
- 50 women reported all three conditions
After 6 weeks, relaxing acupressure helped ease depression better than both stimulating acupressure and usual care. This difference was statistically significant, which means it was likely due to the difference in treatment and not just because of chance.
Both types of acupressure helped ease anxiety and pain better than usual care. These differences also were statistically significant.
“Acupressure was associated with greater improvements than usual care in anxiety, pain, and symptoms of depression in breast cancer survivors with troublesome fatigue,” the researchers wrote. “These findings warrant further evaluation in suitably controlled randomized trials.”
What this means for you
If you’re continuing to have symptoms of fatigue, depression, pain, and/or anxiety a year or more after being treated for stage 0-III breast cancer, you might want to talk to your doctor about this study. You can easily learn to give yourself acupressure, and as this study shows, the technique can help many women. Acupressure is one of several complementary and holistic medicine techniques that have been shown to help ease breast cancer treatment side effects. Other techniques include yoga, massage, acupuncture, journaling, and meditation.
Learn more about Complementary and Holistic Medicine.
Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor