When it comes to dealing with cancer, it’s not just the disease taking its toll on the body, but also the impact of the treatment, be it chemotherapy or radiation, and all the side effects associated with it. These include pain, anxiety, depression and often times sleep problems.
Researchers from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center have published a study detailing how acupressure can significantly improve the lives of cancer survivors. This low-cost, at-home solution managed to relieve a series of persistent issues affecting breast cancer patients.
The team reported that relaxing acupressure was effective in about 40% of cases in reducing depression while stimulating acupressure worked on average for one in four women (compared to only 8% effectiveness of standard care). For reducing pain severity and interference, both methods showed improvements for approximately 25 to 30 percent of patients. Acupressure also helped decrease anxiety levels for 17% of survivors.
“If you have a person who is fatigued and depressed, it would be the obvious conclusion to use relaxing acupressure. For anxiety or pain, either approach might work”, noted Suzanna M. Zick, N.D., MPH, research associate professor of family medicine at Michigan Medicine.
This traditional Chinese medicine technique involves applying pressure with fingers, thumbs or a device to specific points on the body. Relaxing acupressure is customarily used to treat insomnia, while stimulating acupressure is meant to increase energy. The difference between the two methods comes down to which points on the body are stimulated.
Among the 288 participants, the team noticed that relieving symptoms of depression also improved sleep quality, accounting for about 20 percent of the improvement in fatigue.
Two clinical trials are still ongoing and Dr. Zick is looking to gather more information using neuroimaging, to better understand the brain pathways involved. She suspects that symptoms impact the brain in multiple ways and indicates that treatments will likely need to be tailored and varied based on a woman’s symptoms and other factors.
Acupressure can be safely done at home with minimal negative effects. Patients could easily learn to apply correct pressure to the appropriate points and find relief for many of their issues, increasing their quality of life and overall outcome.
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