Does Acupressure Hit the Mark? A Three-Arm Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial of Acupressure for Pain and Anxiety Relief in Athletes with Acute Musculoskeletal Sports Injuries
Macznik AK., Schneider AG., Athens J., Sullivan SJ. Clin J Sport Med. 2016;0:1–6
Take Home Message: Three minutes of acupressure was effective in decreasing pain in athletes that sustained an acute musculoskeletal injury; however, it failed to help decrease anxiety levels.
Alternative medicine techniques like acupressure (pressure applied by fingers to specific points on the body) are gaining attention in the sports medicine field due to its affordability, ease of technique, and quick delivery. Acupressure is an effective treatment to manage pain for several conditions (headaches, chronic musculoskeletal pain, dysmenorrhea); however, whether it lessens pain for acute musculoskeletal injuries has yet to be investigated. Therefore, the authors developed a randomized control trial to investigate the efficacy of a 3-minute acupressure program compared to a sham acupressure program or no acupressure among athletes with musculoskeletal pain the day of an injury. The authors assessed 82 athletes with acute sports injuries (56% sprains, 29% strains, 28% fractures) during the 2012 winter sport season (52% rugby, 25% netball, 11% basketball). Following the initial screening, 79 (3 declined to participant) athletes were randomized into one of three groups: 1) 3 minutes of acupressure (pressure applied to dorsum of the dominant hand on the lateral side of the mid 2nd metacarpal; 29 athletes), 2) 3 minutes of sham acupressure (pressure applied to a nonactive point located on the palm of the hand proximal to the 2nd metacarpophalangeal joint; 27 athletes), or 3) no acupressure for 3 minutes (rested in a sitting position; 23 athletes). Before and after the treatment athletes rated their pain and anxiety intensity using 2 100-mm visual analog scales (VAS), where 0 mm represented “no pain” and 100 mm represented “the worst pain possible,” and for anxiety intensity 0 mm was defined as “I don’t feel anxious at all” and 100 mm as “I feel extremely anxious. The acupressure group reported an 11 mm less pain intensity on average compared with the sham and control groups. There was no difference in anxiety level among the treatment groups.
The authors found that a 3-minute acupressure treatment was effective in reducing pain in acute sport musculoskeletal injuries. Prior to the treatment, athlete’s rated their pain at ~50 mm on the VAS, which is indicative of a moderate pain level. Following the treatment, the athletes within the acupressure group rated their pain at ~19 mm on the VAS, representing a mild pain. Therefore, it seems that there was a clinical decline in pain after the acupressure treatment compared with a sham treatment and resting. This study included people in an array of sports and with various injured body parts. Therefore, acupressure could be beneficial for many different types of acute musculoskeletal pain. Having several pain management strategies for diminishing acute pain would allow medical professionals to provide more choices to patients on how they would like to address their acute pain. Based on these results, clinicians should consider acupressure as one of those strategies to manage acute pain.
Questions for Discussion: Would you consider implementing acupressure as a therapeutic treatment?
Written by: Jane McDevitt, PhD
Reviewed by: Jeff Driban