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

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.

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.

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?

Jane McDevitt, PhD
by: Jeff Driban


Mącznik, A., Schneiders, A., Athens, J., & Sullivan, S. (2016). 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 Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine DOI: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000378