According to the results of a study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, acupressure wristbands can reduce nausea among cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.

Nausea and vomiting are potential side effects of radiation therapy, particularly radiation therapy to the intestinal tract. Prevention and treatment of nausea and vomiting often involves the use of antiemetic medications, but there is also interest in complementary or alternative approaches to managing nausea, such as acupuncture or acupressure.

The acupuncture point thought to be associated with relief of nausea is P6, which is located on the wrist. This point can be stimulated through a variety of methods, including manual acupuncture (insertion of needles), electroacupuncture (passing electric current through the inserted needle), noninvasive electrostimulation (application of electric current without a needle), or acupressure (pressure applied by the fingers or an elastic wristband).

To evaluate the effect of acupressure with an elastic wristband, researchers conducted a study among 88 patients with radiation therapy-related nausea. Study participants were assigned to one of three groups:

  1. Standard care (no wristband)
  2. Standard care plus wristband, with neutral information given about the likely efficacy of the wristband.
  3. Standard care plus wristband, with positive information given about the likely efficacy of the wristband.

The researchers gave different information to the two groups of wristband wearers in order to assess whether the patient’s expectations influenced the efficacy of the wristband.

Patients reported on the severity of their nausea for two days before and five days after the start of the study.  Nausea was scored on a scale of 1 (not nauseated) to 7 (extremely nauseated).

Patients in the two wristband groups experienced a 24% reduction in nausea, compared with only a 5% reduction among patients in the standard care group. In the wristband groups, those who received neutral information about the efficacy of the wristbands experienced as much benefit as those who received positive information.

The researchers conclude: “Acupressure bands are an effective, low-cost, nonintrusive, well-accepted, and safe adjunct to standard antiemetic medication.”

Reference: Rosco JA, Bushunow P, Jean-Pierre P et al. Acupressure bands are effective in reducing radiation therapy-related nausea. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. Online publication March 28, 2009.

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