Acupressure brings better breathing to depressive patients

| | | Bookmark and Share

May 26, 2007  
Filed under Uncategorized

acupressure, depression, breathCM NEWSAcupressure is effective in lessening shortness of breath in patients with depression, which could help remove the psychological pressure of dyspnea of these patients, a Taiwan study shows.

The onset of depression is often triggered by breathlessness in persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is hypothesized that these are the psychologic consequences of chronic dyspnea (shortness of breath).

Lessening dyspnea might alleviate depressive symptoms. The study, dubbed “the psychologic consequences of chronic dyspnea in chronic pulmonary obstruction disease: the effects of acupressure on depression”, was done at the School of Nursing, National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan.

Acupressure has been shown in other studies to produce relaxation. The aim of this study was to determine if it would lessen dyspnea and reduce depression in patients with COPD.

What is acupressure? 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.

Acupressure is based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), in which stimulating specific points on the body is believed to improve the function of the different organs. Acupuncture is the standard method used in TCM, which involves inserting a sterile needle into a point on the body to stimulate it.

In contrast, acupressure is where the practitioner achieves the same goal by using his hands to briefly apply pressure to the same points. This gentle approach may be just what the doctor ordered to help people with COPD start breathing easier.

What is COPD? Chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma all are considered to be forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although they are different diseases and have different underlying causes, all of them result in partial blocking in the airway, which limits the amount of oxygen absorbed through the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chronic cough, and wheezing.

Acupressure has been shown in other studies to produce relaxation. In a study reported by the Journal of Advanced Nursing (2004;45:252–9), adults suffering from shortness of breath that results from chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or asthma may benefit from receiving frequent acupressure treatments. The findings suggest acupressure improves breathing, reduces anxiety, and increases the amount of activity people with lung problems can perform before they experience shortness of breath.

In the present study, 44 subjects diagnosed with COPD were chosen from one medical center and three regional hospitals in Taipei, Taiwan.

A randomized, block experimental design was used, with subjects and the data collector blinded. Using age, gender, pulmonary function, smoking, and steroid use as matching factors, 44 subjects were randomly assigned to either the true acupressure or the sham (fake, non-acupoint) acupressure groups.

Previous studies indicate that 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.

The true acupressure group received a program of acupressure using appropriate acupoints that promote relaxation and relieve dyspnea. The acupressure protocol involved the following acupoints: Dazhui (??, Great Hammer; GV14), Tiantu (??, Celestial Chimney; CV22), Feishu (??, Lung Transport; B13), Shenshu (??, Kidney Transport; B23), and Yuji (??, Fish Border; L10).

The sham acupressure group received acupressure using sham acupoints different from the meridians and ganglionic sections of the true acupressure group. The acupressure protocol involved the following acupoints, which are used to promote intestinal movement: Shangqiu (??, Shang Hill; Sp5), Taibai (??, Supreme White; Sp3) and Dadun (??, Large Pile; Liv1).

Both acupressure programs lasted 4 weeks, with five sessions per week that lasted 16 minutes per session.

Activity, fatigue and dyspnoea were rated at the beginning and end of the study using the Pulmonary Function Status and Dyspnoea Questionnaire-Modified (PFSDQ-M). Subjects also rated their levels of anxiety associated with dyspnoea using the State Anxiety Inventory at the start and finish of the study, and took a six-minute walking distance test as well, to evaluate tolerance of activity.

Oxygen saturation in the finger of each participant was measured before and after each acupressure session using a pulse oximeter.

Mean scores on the PFSDQ-M showed that dyspnoea in the true-acupressure group decreased significantly after the intervention and that fatigue levels for this group improved significantly, as compared to the sham-acupressure group.

Results of the State Anxiety Inventory showed that, on average, anxiety was significantly lower in the true-acupressure group than the sham group at the conclusion of the study.

Subjects in the true-acupressure group also improved significantly on the six-minute walking test, indicating that they had more tolerance for activity than the sham group.

Mean oxygen-saturation scores for the true-acupressure group were significantly greater than the sham group following each acupressure session, which suggests improved pulmonary function.

“We found significantly greater improvements in patients receiving acupressure at true acupoints compared with those receiving acupressure at sham points,” state the study’s authors. “This improvement related to all the variables studied and suggests that people with [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] would benefit from acupressure at true acupoints.”

The researchers say these findings provide health professionals with an evidence-based intervention to use with persons with COPD. Applying this acupressure program in clinical practice, communities, and long-term care units may lessen chronic dyspnea and depression in persons with COPD.

[J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Mar;13(2):253-61]