The effects of ear acupressure, massage therapy and no therapy on symptoms of dementia: a randomized controlled trial

Clin Rehabil. 2015 Jul;29(7):683-93. doi: 10.1177/0269215514554240. Epub 2014 Oct 16.


Objective: To assess the effectiveness of ear acupressure and massage vs. control in the improvement of pain, anxiety and depression in persons diagnosed with dementia.

Design: A pilot randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Residential homes in Extremadura (Spain).

Subjects: A total of 120 elders with dementia institutionalized in residential homes.

Intervention: The participants were randomly allocated, in three groups. Control group - they continued with their routine activities; ear acupressure intervention group - they received ear acupressure treatment (pressure was applied to acupressure points on the ear); and massage therapy intervention group - they received relaxing massage therapy.

Main measures: The variables pain, anxiety and depression were assessed with the Doloplus2, Cornell and Campbell scales. The study was carried out during five months; three months of experimental treatment and two months with no treatment. The assessments were done at baseline, each month during the treatment and at one and two months of follow-up. In the statistical analysis the three groups were compared with each other.

Results: A total of 111 participants completed the study. Their aged ranged from 67 to 91 years old and 86 of them (77.4%) were women. The ear acupressure intervention group showed better improvements than the massage therapy intervention group in relation to pain and depression during the treatment period and at one month of follow-up. The best improvement in pain was achieved in the last (3rd) month of ear acupressure treatment (p < 0.001) being the average improvement 8.55 (4.39) with IC 95% (7.14, 9.95). Regarding anxiety, the best results were also observed in the last month of treatment. The average improvement in anxiety was 9.63 (5.00) with IC 95% (8.02, 11.23) CONCLUSIONS: Ear acupressure and massage therapy showed better results than the control group in relation to pain, anxiety and depression. However, ear acupressure achieved more improvements.

Keywords: Massage; dementia; ear acupressure; pain.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupressure / methods*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Ear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spain
  • Statistics, Nonparametric