Background: Acupressure is a therapy in which gentle pressure is applied with fingers at specific acupoints on the body. It is reported to relieve pain and have other beneficial effects. This study was designed to ascertain the value of self-administered acupressure as an adjunct to a pulmonary rehabilitation program (PRP) for relief of dyspnea and other symptoms in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Methods: A single-blind pretest-posttest, cross-over design was used. Thirty-one new patients beginning a 12-week PRP at two private hospitals were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Patients in group 1 were taught acupressure and practiced it daily at home for 6 weeks, then sham acupressure for the following 6 weeks. In group 2, the order of acupressure and sham acupressure was reversed. During weeks 1, 6, and 12, patient dyspnea, other symptoms associated with COPD, activity tolerance, lung function, and functional exercise capacity were assessed.
Results: Real acupressure was more effective than sham acupressure for reducing dyspnea as measured by a visual analog scale (P = .009, one-tailed), and was minimally effective for relieving decathexis (P = .044, one-tailed). Sham acupressure seemed to be more effective than real acupressure for reducing peripheral sensory symptoms (P = .002, two-tailed), but the presence of these symptoms may also be an indication that the acupressure is affecting the body.
Conclusions: Acupressure seems to be useful to patients with COPD as an adjunct to a PRP in reducing dyspnea. Some persons who are not initially familiar with traditional Chinese medicine can learn and will accept self-administered acupressure as part of their self-care.