Practitioners of Chinese medicine techniques have long used stimulation of points on the wrists through acupuncture or acupressure to relieve nausea. However, mainstream medical doctors have generally dismissed claims that acupressure wristbands could have any power to stop nausea. But a study by Rochester Medical Center researchers just published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management has found the Chinese approach really does work — and it is not due to the placebo effect, either.
The significance of the study, the scientists noted in a statement to media, is that acupressure wristbands appear to be a safe, low-cost way to help cancer patients cut down on nausea when undergoing radiation, chemo and other treatments.
“We know the placebo effect exists, the problem is that we don’t know how to measure it very well,” said Joseph A. Roscoe, Ph.D., corresponding author and research associate professor at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at URMC, in the press release. “In this study we attempted to manipulate the information we gave to patients, to see if their expectations about nausea could be changed. As it turned out, our information to change people’s expectations had no effect — but we still found that the wristbands reduce nausea symptoms.”
The study involved 88 people divided into three groups. All the participants were suffering from some degree of nausea after receiving at least two radiation treatments for various types of cancer. Dr. Roscoe explained that while chemotherapy is more often linked with producing nausea and vomiting, radiation to the intestinal tract can also cause those distressing symptoms.
A control group received no wristbands while a second group used wristbands and received information leading them to expect the treatment to work. A third group also received wristbands but only neutral information about wearing them, so they were not psychologically influenced to believe the wristbands would relieve their nausea. The results? All the patients who wore the acupressure wristbands experienced a 23.8 percent decrease in nausea compared to a 4.8 percent decrease in the control group.
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