Acupressure and Chronic Back Pain Treatment
Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: August 22, 2019
A new study suggests that acupressure – a traditional Chinese medicine technique that seeks to provide pain relief through targeted pressure applications on the body – may be beneficial for patients with chronic low back pain.
“Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but instead of needles, pressure is applied with a finger, thumb or device to specific points on the body,” said Susan Murphy, ScD, OTR, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine and lead author of the study.
Murphy noted that acupressure had previously been linked to a beneficial association for patients with certain cancers and arthritis pain, but there isn’t a lot of literature on how it could help patients with chronic low back pain. That’s where Murphy set her sights with the study.
Back Pain and Acupressure
For the study, researchers randomly grouped 67 participants with chronic low back pain into one of three groups:
- Relaxing acupressure
- Stimulating acupressure
- Usual care
Individuals in the acupressure group were taught how to administer acupressure on certain trigger points on the body and were asked to spend between 27 and 30 minutes a day performing the pressure technique. They did so for a period of six weeks. During this time, participants in the usual care group were asked to continue whatever treatments they were currently receiving for their low back discomfort.
After looking at the results at the end of the study, Murphy and her team concluded that, “compared to the usual care group, we found that people who performed stimulating acupressure experienced pain and fatigue improvement and those that performed relaxing acupressure felt their pain had improved after six weeks.” They added that there was no differences between the groups in terms of how back pain affected their sleep quality at the end of the six weeks.
At the end of their study, Murphy and her co-authors wrote that more research is needed on the technique, but that they are cautiously optimistic that the technique could help provide some pain relief in lieu or more potentially dangerous options, like opioids, and it could help save patients money because the techniques can be performed by the patient.
We agree with the last point in that more research is needed, but it’s encouraging to see that we’re continuing to look for new ways to help patients with chronic back pain. This probably isn’t going to become a stand-alone technique for treating pain, but should it prove fruitful in larger clinical tests, it may be a viable technique alongside more active management options like exercise, dietary changes, physical therapy and surgery. Let’s hope that we learn more about the science of acupressure so that it can be safely applied to patients who may be a good candidate for the technique. In the meantime, if you want help with any of your back pain problems, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s clinic today.