AUG 20, 2023 3:00 AM PDT

Can Self-Acupressure Manage Cancer-Related Symptoms?

WRITTEN BY: Katie Kokolus

Increasing evidence suggests that acupressure, a complementary and alternative medicine approach involving applying pressure to specific areas of the body, known as acupoints, can effectively mediate symptoms experienced by cancer patients.  Recent studies have shown that acupressure can control cancer-related nausea, fatigue, sleep disruption, and pain

Most of the growing body of literature promoting the benefits of acupressure involves treatments administered by trained acupuncturists.  However, we lack an understanding of the effectiveness of performing acupressure on yourself, a process known as self-acupressure.  To address the potential benefits of self-acupressure, a team of researchers conducted a systemic review of published data on self-acupressure for symptom management in cancer patients. The review appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

The researchers searched electronic databases for peer-reviewed studies exploring self-acupressure for cancer-related symptoms.  The search identified 11 studies to include in the review.

Due to the lack of available data on self-acupressure, the authors noted suboptimal methodology in the included studies.  Reasons for the challenging interpretation and combination of the published data included inconsistencies in acupressure training, intervention duration, and timing of treatment. 

When combining data from the selected studies, the researchers found that self-acupressure reduced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.  Other cancer-related symptoms, including insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and pain remained inconclusive. 

Notably, the study includes many limitations, as acknowledged by the authors.  Since most publications were exploratory studies, indicating they had few patients, limited treatment conditions, and inadequate control groups, conclusions became challenging to interpret.  Additionally, the different studies included varied self-acupressure protocols making it difficult to combine data for a systemic review. 

So, can self-acupressure manage cancer-related symptoms?  The short answer, maybe, but we have much more to learn!  Despite the limitations, the compilation of data concludes that self-acupressure can effectively reduce cancer-related nausea and vomiting.  The field requires more extensive, better-controlled studies to understand the potential benefits of self-acupressure for cancer symptoms fully.


Sources: J Pain Symptom Manage, Int J Nurs Stud, Can Nurs, Eur J Integr Med, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, Sci

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
I received a PhD in Tumor Immunology from SUNY Buffalo and BS and MS degrees from Duquesne University. I also completed a postdoc fellowship at the Penn State College of Medicine. I am interested in developing novel strategies to improve the efficacy of immunotherapies used to extend cancer survivorship.
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