Known as Tuina in China, acupressure is the technique of applying pressure to the acupoints and meridians. Acupressure points are located next to the largest nerve fibre pathways in your body that carry messages from nerve endings through your central nervous system.
Pericardium 6 (P6) is one of these points, governing the movement of energy in the chest, harmonisation of the digestion and stomach, the regulation of blood flow and the calming of the mind. In China, acupressure on P6 is used to treat chest pain, irregular and painful periods, pre-menstrual depression, insomnia and to relieve nausea and vomiting, acid regurgitation, hiccupping and belching.
Western scientists have looked to examine more medically acceptable explanations for the phenomenon represented by acupressure. Most likely, in their view, is the involvement of pain-relieving chemicals known as endorphins and the ‘gate control theory’ of pain relief. Basically, stimulating the skin activates large diameter 'touch' fibres. The touch message travels faster to the brain than the competitive and smaller 'pain' fibres. As the brain can only process so many messages at once, the ‘gate’ to the brain is closed during the touch stimulation and the amount of pain felt is inhibited.
Pressure also appears to stimulate nerve fibres running up the spinal cord and ultimately results in production of endorphins, morphine-like compounds which influence the hormonal and immune systems and inhibit the brain’s perception of pain – especially when associated with anxiety and stress.
Acupressure has been clinically proven to ease nausea
There have been several clinical trials looking into the evidence around the effectiveness of acupressure in easing sickness and vomiting. A recent review reports that acupuncture and acupressure reduce the risk of developing nausea after an operation by 28–75%.
Acupressure bands worn before surgery, or afterwards in recovery, can prevent the onset of nausea and vomiting. They are particularly useful in day-surgery for patients experiencing continued nausea.
Studies have also shown that both acupuncture and acupressure are as effective as anti-nausea medications at reducing symptoms, with virtually no negative side effects.
Several reviews report that acupressure has shown a decrease in the frequency of chemotherapy related nausea. Patients undergoing chemotherapy can use nausea wrist bands to control anticipatory nausea as well as nausea induced by chemotherapy drugs.
Common ways to use acupressure to relieve nausea
Acupressure is usually done by using the fingers to apply massage, but it may also include the use of the elbows, feet, or some blunt tools to stimulate pressure points in the body.
As already mentioned, the Pericardium 6 (P6 or PC6), Inner Gate, or Nei Guan in Chinese, is considered the most important point in the management of nausea. Pericardium 6 is located three finger breadths below the wrist on the inner forearm.
Locating the P6 (Nei Guan) pressure point
Hold your hand palm facing upward. With the other hand, measure a distance of three finger-widths from the wrist towards the elbow. The P6 pressure point is located along the centre line of the hand in between the two tendons.
You can do acupressure at home by using your thumb or index fingers to massage your acupoints. Press firmly on the P6 pressure point on both sides of the wrist when you feel nauseous. Then gently, but firmly rub the point using a circular motion for several minutes. You may immediately feel relief, but it can sometimes take up to five minutes.
Anti-Nausea Wrist Bands
Alternatively many people prefer to use Anti-nausea wrist bands to relieve cancer treatment related nausea and vomiting. The elasticated bands operate by applying pressure on theP6 acupressure point on each wrist by means of a plastic stud.
Anti-nausea wrist bands can be applied as a preventative measure before the onset of nausea, such as before surgery to reduce the risk of nausea and vomiting associated with anaesthesia or before chemotherapy treatment. They may also be applied after the onset of nausea. Nausea is typically reduced within 5 minutes after the wrist bands are applied.
The wrist bands must fit snugly around the wrist to work. One band must be worn on each wrist for them to be effective. There are no contraindications to their use and they can be used in combination with any other drugs.
TENS Wrist Band
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. A TENS wrist band consists of a small unit, attached to the wrist via electrode pads, through which a harmless electrical signal is passed. The sensation is not painful or unpleasant and can be likened to 'pins and needles', or even gentle massage.
Nausea and vomiting are caused by transmission of a nausea signal to the stomach via the brain, which causes the stomach to contrast irregularly, resulting in vomiting. By releasing a low-frequency pulse with a particular frequency, a TENS wrist band can adjust the vagus nerve signals travelling to and from the stomach and can prevent or postpone the brain from transmitting nausea signals to the stomach. Consequently, this slows down the irregular gastric contraction and reduces the nauseous sensation for the users.
A recent study has suggested that electroacupuncture may be more effective than manual.
Please note that TENS wrist bands are not suitable for anyone suffering from acute inflammation, hemorrhagic tendency, arrhythmia and epilepsy or people who have cardiac pacemaker within their bodies.
Is acupressure safe for everyone?
Acupressure is a safe, natural, non-invasive and quick remedy for nausea.
CancerPal sells a range of products that have been recommended to help ease nausea, including anti-nausea wrist bands and TENS wrist bands as well as a range of Nausea Relief Care Boxes.