By Senior Jin Shin Do® Teacher/Practitioner Deborah Valentine Smith, L.M.T, AOBTA®-CI, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), Pennsylvania and NYC
In recent years, there has been quite a bit of research on the effects of acupressure on common problems like “headache,” “low back pain” and “insomnia.”
The current “scientific” model of research requires that individual complexities be reduced, for the most part, to a single symptom for which a generic treatment protocol can be tested on a large number of individuals, regardless of the variety of root causes that produce their common symptom.
Using the language of traditional Chinese acupuncture theory, we would identify problems like “headache,” “low back pain” and “insomnia” as symptoms associated with energetic imbalances.
Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure® is not intended for the diagnosis, treatment or cure of disease. It is a relaxation therapy, and a useful adjunct to licensed, qualified medical or psychological care. For any persistent pain or symptom, even a seemingly minor one, the reader is strongly encouraged to consult a medical doctor. When used in conjunction with standard medical treatment, the Jin Shin Do Acupressure technique can assist the healing process by releasing tension, decreasing stress and encouraging a sense of increased well-being.
For example, insomnia might be related to imbalances of the Heart official and blockage at related points or in the Yang Bridge Vessel (Yang Qiao Mai). Low back pain could be associated with one or more Organ Meridian imbalances - most likely the Bladder, Kidney, Gall Bladder and/or Large Intestine meridians. Headache could indicate “Liver Yang rising” or “blocked Qi in the neck and shoulders.” [In the Gall Bladder, Stomach, Bladder, Small Intestine, Triple Warmer and/or Large Intestine Meridians-but note that these meridian names are Western, since traditional Chinese names described the polarity or function of the meridians. -Iona]
Of course, problems like “headache,” “low back pain” and “insomnia” can also be symptoms of disease, so it is important that clients consult a medical doctor.
In this article, I will focus on a few of the many scientific studies that have demonstrated the effectiveness of acupressure - in spite of the researchers' need to use the same points on everyone, rather than tailoring the point choice to the individual!
Published research has found acupressure to be effective in relieving a variety of conditions, including tension headaches, back pain, pain of minor trauma, and nausea of many varieties, especially post-surgical. The National Institutes of Health is currently funding studies on acupressure for the relief of cancer-related fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, smoking and obesity, to name a few.
In researching for this article, I drew on articles cited in AOBTA®'s Pulse Newsletter (of which I am editor) from 2000 to 2011, and several websites.1 (Try Google-ing “acupressure research” and see what you get. My last attempt yielded 36 pages of references.) Below are some of the highlights from these sources.
By far the most popular subject for acupressure research. Research on the efficacy of acupressure for nausea has been done many times, in many situations including post-surgery, childbirth, and post-cancer-treatment. These studies focus on specific points -- JSD #27 (P6) and JSD #26 (TW5) - stimulating them with tools rather than fingers to “eliminate the subjective factor.”
[The little motion sickness bracelets-available in some drugstores for decades-work because you place the plastic bead so as to apply pressure on #27. Fingers or thumbs may work even better, but you can leave a bracelet on longer.-Iona]
Low Back Pain
A study at the Institute of Preventive Medicine at the National Taiwan University in Taipei showed an 89% reduction in significant disability in those treated with acupressure compared with those treated with physical therapy.
Those who received acupressure had improved body function, were less disabled, took fewer days off from work or school, and had significant reduction of pain, including in the legs.
[The reports of this research that I've seen do not say what type of physical therapy. Since the study was done in Taipei, it's likely the comparison was with Chinese physical therapy techniques - but there are many of those, just like there are many Western physical therapy techniques. East or West, the best physical therapy helps the muscles and tendons regain full functioning. Especially after injuries, acupressure is most effective when used in combination with physical therapy techniques.]
[JSD classes begin with easy Qigong exercises that are great physical therapy for the back, shoulders and neck. These “8 Silken Movements” can be done standing or sitting. They only take about 10 or 15 minutes to do, or you can do just one or a few of these exercises at a time. - Iona]
Relief of Pain of Minor Trauma
Paramedics applied acupressure en route to the hospital for conditions like simple fractures, small wounds and contusions. Patients receiving acupressure showed significant relief of pain and anxiety and lowered heart rate compared to the controls. The researchers stated:
“We recommend this technique for emergency physicians and also for nonacademic personnel, such as nurses, paramedics, firefighters, or emergency medical technicians.”
Alexander Kober, M.D., Thomas Scheck, M.S., Manfred Greher, M.D., Frank Liega, Roman Fleishhackl, Sabine Fleishhackl, Frederick Randunsky, and Klaus Hoerauf, MD., Anesthesia and Analgesia, 2002, Issue 95, pp. 723-727.
In “Using JSD Acupressure in Emergency Situations” (2005 Acupressure News), Canadian Registered JSD Acupressurist Gene Hainstock said:
"In my 12 years as a paramedic, I have used acupressure many times. For example, a hypothermic lady found that JSD #42 (Lv 3) was very effective in warming her up. It has a slow gentle effect that is very important with hypothermia.
"I have found the Basic JSD Neck/Shoulder Release (both #23s, 19s, 20s, 21s and 22s) to be very effective in calming patients. Also, just cupping the points below the anklebones - #12 (B 62) and #9 (K 6) - is very comforting in the emergency room as the staff does their work. These points are also very powerful in palliative care situations (with terminally ill patients). I have also found that “H” (Gv 14) and #27 (P 6, on the inner arm opposite to #26) are very effective in calming trauma patients."
Agitation in Dementia
Researchers found that acupressure treatment resulted in a significant reduction in verbal and physical attacks and immediate improvement in patient behavior. Acupressure appeared to help prevent the onset of aggressive symptoms, compared to the controls.
Yang MH, Wu SC, Lin JG, Lin LC. The efficacy of acupressure for decreasing agitated behavior in dementia: a pilot study. Journal of Clinical Nursing, Feb. 2007; 16(2):308-1
Results of the treatment showed dramatic cardiovascular changes in the acupressure group. Heart rate, for instance, decreased an average of seven beats per minute in the group receiving acupressure, compared to five beats for a group that received general stroking and just one beat per minute in the control group. Similar changes in arterial pressure and skin blood flow were seen in the acupressure group, but not in the stroking or control groups.
Felhendler D, Lisander B. Effects of non-invasive stimulation of acupoints on the cardiovascular system. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 1999; 7:231-234.
Patients in the true acupressure group demonstrated significant improvement over the sham acupressure group on the Pulmonary Status and Dyspnoea [difficulty breathing] Questionnaire modified scale, the Speilgerger State Anxiety Scale, and in a six minute walking distance test. Improvements in oxygen saturation levels and respiratory rates were also reported.
Ming, J.L. et. al, “Effectiveness of Acupressure in Improving Dyspnoea, in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease,”Journal of Advanced Nursing 45 (3), 253-259.
This article cites research showing that the fascia of neck muscles is contiguous with the dura of the brain, which explains why acupressure at the base of the skull can relieve tension headaches:
“Acupressure Therapy for Headaches,” by Dorothy Kroll, in Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Nov/Dec 1995, pg. 357-359
Kurland, H.D., Treatment of headache pain with auto-acupressure, Kurland HD., Curr Psychiatr. Ther. 1977;17:271-4.
One study found that there was a significant reduction in the frequencies of nocturnal awakening and night wakeful time in the acupressure group compared to the other two. There were also significant differences in PSQI (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index) subscale scores of the quality, latency, duration, efficiency, disturbances of sleep, and global PSQI (scores among subjects in the three groups before and after interventions).
Quality of Sleep of Institutionalized Residents, Chen, ML et al., Journal of Gerontology: MEDICAL SCIENCES 1999, Vol. 54Q, No. 8, M389-M394.
Re. complementary and alternative medicine for sleep disturbances in older adults, see: Clinical Geriatric Medicine 2008 Feb;24(1):121-38, viii. Gooneratne NS. Division of Geriatric Medicine, Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 3615 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
FOOTNOTE 1Some Websites that Cite Research on Acupressure:
The Society for Acupuncture Research website: www.acupunctureresearch.org
The National Institutes of Health, several websites.
The Touch Research Institute: http://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/ (mainly articles about massage therapy)
A study on the effects of shiatsu from the University of Leeds in the UK:
A website called “Medical News”: www.news-medical.net
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