ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For many people, lower back pain is one of those lingering annoyances that just always seems to find its way back, for lack of a better word. If you are one of the millions of people who live with chronic lower back pain, a new study conducted at the University of Michigan may be of interest to you. Researchers say that self-administered acupressure, a traditional Chinese medicine technique, can help improve the nagging condition and reduce the brutal pain that comes with it.
Acupressure is often confused with with acupuncture, but needle-haters needn’t worry; acupressure doesn’t involve being pricked. “Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but instead of needles, pressure is applied with a finger, thumb or device to specific points on the body,” explains lead author Susan Murphy, ScD, OTR, in a statement.
Previous research had already found acupressure to be helpful in the treatment of cancer-related pain or osteoarthritis pain, but its effect on back pain had not been properly investigated. So, the research team randomly assigned 67 participants dealing with chronic lower back pain into three groups: usual care, relaxing acupressure, and stimulating acupressure.
Traditionally, relaxing acupressure is used to treat insomnia, while stimulating acupressure is more commonly used in fatigue reduction.
Participants in both acupressure groups were taught how to perform the technique on themselves, and spent about a half hour each day self-administering for a total of six weeks. Meanwhile, participants in the usual care group simply went about their usual lower back treatments for six weeks.
“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,” Murphy says. “We found no differences among the groups in terms of sleep quality or disability after the six weeks.”
Murphy and her team say that chronic pain is a difficult condition to live with, that often leads to more problems such as depression and problems sleeping. Additionally, most modern treatments for chronic pain are medications that usually include side effects and the potential for abuse or addiction.
This study, however, illustrates that there are still all natural, non-pharmacological solutions to chronic lower back pain that patients can perform independently. Researchers admit that additional research is still needed, but they believe acupressure can be a useful, low cost, and low risk pain management tool.
Moving forward, Murphy would like to perform studies on the different types of acupressure, in order to determine if different techniques alleviate different pain symptoms or body areas.
The study is published in the scientific journal Pain Management.