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Does Acupressure Hit the Mark? A Three-Arm Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial of Acupressure for Pain and Anxiety Relief in Athletes With Acute Musculoskeletal Sports Injuries

Mącznik, Aleksandra K. PhD, PT*; Schneiders, Anthony G. PhD, PT; Athens, Josie PhD; Sullivan, S. John PhD*

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: July 2017 - Volume 27 - Issue 4 - p 338–343
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000378
Original Research

Objectives: Injuries are a common consequence of sports and recreational activity. The optimal management of symptoms is a crucial element of sports injury management. Acupressure has previously been shown to effectively decrease symptoms of musculoskeletal injury, thus may be considered a potentially useful intervention in the management of sport-related injuries. Therefore, this study was conducted to examine the effectiveness of acupressure in decreasing pain and anxiety in acutely injured athletes.

Design: A prospective 3-arm randomized placebo-controlled trial.

Setting: A sports injury clinic, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Patients: Seventy-nine athletes who sustained a sport-related musculoskeletal injury on the day.

Intervention: Three minutes of either acupressure, sham acupressure, or no acupressure.

Main Outcome Measures: The primary outcomes of pain and anxiety intensity were measured before and immediately after the intervention on a 100-mm visual analog scale (VAS). Pain and anxiety relief, satisfaction with treatment, willingness to repeat a similar treatment, and belief in the effect of acupressure were secondary outcomes measured on Likert scales after the intervention.

Results: The acupressure group reported 11 mm less pain (95% CI: 5-17) on average than the sham acupressure group, and 9 mm less (95% CI: 3-16) than the control group as a result of the intervention (P < 0.05). There was no difference between groups in: anxiety levels, or in any of the secondary outcome measures.

Conclusions: Three minutes of acupressure was effective in decreasing pain intensity in athletes who sustained an acute musculoskeletal sports injury when measured on the VAS, but did not change anxiety levels.

*Centre for Health, Activity, and Rehabilitation Research, School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand;

School of Human, Health and Social Sciences, Central Queensland University, Bundaberg, Australia; and

Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Corresponding Author: Aleksandra K. Mącznik, PhD, PT, Centre for Health, Activity, and Rehabilitation Research, School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, Room 110, 325 Great King St, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand (alex.macznik@gmail.com).

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Received November 18, 2015

Accepted June 15, 2016

Copyright © 2017 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.