Efficacy of acupressure for non-pharmacological stress reduction in college students

Complement Ther Med. 2012 Aug;20(4):175-82. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2011.12.003. Epub 2012 Jan 4.


Objectives: Identifying a non-pharmacological intervention to reduce the stress response could be particularly beneficial to college students, a group prone to considerable stress. Acupressure has shown some efficacy in reducing stress in adults following stroke or traumatic brain injury (TBI), but multiple treatments were required. Results from single treatments in healthy populations have been mixed.

Design: The current study used a randomised, placebo-controlled, single-blind design to investigate the use of a single acupressure treatment for stress reduction in healthy college students (n=109) during a stressor.

Interventions: Participants were randomly assigned to one of three single, 40-min interventions: active acupressure, placebo acupressure, or a relaxation CD control. A math task stressor administered before and after the intervention assessed intervention effects on stressor responsivity.

Main outcome measures: Stress responses were measured by physiological (heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV), skin conductance response (SCR)) and subjective measures (State Anxiety Inventory, nine-item Psychological Stress Measure) of anxiety and stress.

Results: All interventions were associated with the following changes during the post-intervention stressor compared to the pre-intervention stressor: reduced HR (p<0.001), increased HRV (p<0.024), reduced SCR (p<0.001), reduced subjective stress scores (p<0.001), and increased correct answers (p<0.001). Although all groups demonstrated stress reduction, there were no significant group differences after a single treatment.

Conclusions: All interventions significantly reduced the stress response, although not differently. The lack of active acupressure-associated treatment effects appears to be due to insufficient dosing.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupressure*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Health Status
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Perception
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Students / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Universities
  • Young Adult