Acupressure, a form of bodywork practiced by many massage therapists, was shown to reduce labor pain in a new randomized, controlled trial.

Researchers set out to evaluate the effect of acupressure administered during the active phase of labor on women’s ratings of labor pain, with only women who were giving birth for the first time included in the study.

This study was conducted in a public hospital in India. Seventy-one women were randomized to receive acupressure at acupuncture point spleen 6 (SP6) on both legs during contractions over a 30-minute period. Seventy-one women received light touch at SP6 on both legs during the same period of time. Seventy women received standard care.

The research was conducted by the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Division of Reproductive and Perinatal Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden (Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2010 Sep 8.)

Experience of in-labor pain was assessed by visual analog scale at baseline before treatment, immediately after treatment, and at 30, 60 and 120 minutes after treatment.

A reduction of in-labor pain was found in the acupressure group and was most noticeable immediately after treatment.

“Acupressure seems to reduce pain during the active phase of labor in nulliparous women giving birth in a context in which social support and epidural analgesia are not available,” the researchers noted. “However, the treatment effect is small which suggests that acupressure may be most effective during the initial phase of labor.”

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