Acupressure: A Self-Treatment Strategy for Chronic Low Back Pain?

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istock/humonia

A handful of small studies have shown that acupressure—a technique from Chinese traditional medicine that involves gently pressing on selected points on the body that are believed to play a role in health—can ease some forms of chronic pain. But evidence to date suggests that this is a placebo response, and acupressure remains an unproven treatment.

Still, since acupressure is essentially safe and easy to perform, it might be worth a try. And results from a study published in Pain Medicine in June 2019 suggest that you can learn to do acupressure yourself.

Researchers recruited chronic low back pain sufferers and randomly assigned them to one of three groups: a control group, a group that was taught to use acupressure on discrete areas of the body that are believed to provide stimulation, and a group that used acupressure on a different set of points associated with relaxation.

The two acupressure groups applied gentle circular pressure, usually for about three minutes, to each of the selected acupressure points for about 20 to 30 minutes a day. Participants in the control group continued with their usual care. After six weeks, the control group reported very little change in pain. In contrast, pain scores were reduced in both acupressure groups.

The study was very small (55 people), and it’s impossible to rule out the placebo effect. But if you’d like to give it a try, click here to learn which pressure points might relieve back pain.