Three six-minute acupressure sessions per day during postoperative days one and two increased patient satisfaction but did not improve recovery scores among postoperative patients, according to recent research.

Study Design

The study, “Efficacy of acupressure on quality of recovery after surgery,” involved 161 postoperative patients, all of whom stayed in the hospital at least two days after surgery. These subjects were randomly assigned to either the acupressure, sham or no-intervention group.

Those in the acupressure group received a six-minute acupressure session three times a day on postoperative days one and two. The acupressure protocol involved two minutes of pressure applied to each of the following three acupoints: PC6, LI4 and HT7. The level of pressure applied was between 4,000 and 7,000 grams.

For subjects in the sham group, the research team used the same protocol outlined above, but instead of applying two minutes of pressure to each acupoint, the practitioner used “extremely light touch.” The level of pressure applied was between six and 80 grams. In the no-intervention group, the subjects received only standard postoperative care.

Benefits of Acupressure

The main outcome measure in this study was postoperative quality of recovery (QoR). This was measured using the QoR-15 questionnaire on postoperative days one and three. Secondary outcome measures were patient satisfaction, postoperative nausea and vomiting, pain and opioid consumption.

Results of the research showed a statistically significant difference between the three groups in terms of patient satisfaction, with the acupressure group reporting the highest level of patient satisfaction, followed by the sham group and then the no-intervention group. No significant differences between the three groups were observed in terms of the study’s other outcome measures.

“Patients treated in the postoperative period are exposed to intense systemic multimodal pain treatments acting on the nociceptive pathway that may have mitigated the beneficial effects of acupressure,” state the study’s authors. “In the context of peri-operative medicine, manual pressure may not be the optimal way to trigger acupoints compared with alternatives such as acupuncture or electro-acustimulation.”

Authors: Eric Noll, Shivam Shodhan, Jamie Romeiser, Maria Madariaga, Christopher Page, Diane Santangelo, Xiaojun Guo, Aurora Pryor, Tong Gan and Elliot Bennett-Guerrero.

Sources: Department of Anesthesiology and Department of Surgery, Stony Brook Medicine, Brookhaven, New York; Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Strasbourg University Hospital, Strasbourg, France; and Institute of Image-Guided Surgery, IHU Strasbourg University Hospital, Strasbourg, France. Originally published in August 2019 in the European Journal of Anaesthesiology, 36(8), 557-565.