The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Acupuncture, Accupressure and Massage Therapy

Several small studies have found that all of these more Eastern treatment methods work to decrease anxiety, agitation, and stress. The evidence from dementia caregivers is also positive. On the down side, results occur only with regular, sometimes daily, use and end soon after the treatments do.

Acupuncture: Treatment consists of needles inserted in strategic points on the body. Placement and number of the needles depends the conditions being treated. For dementia, the needles will often be in the head. Although the needles don’t hurt, a person must lie still for a period of time, usually 20 to 30 minutes, once the needles are inserted.

I convinced Carlton to try acupuncture to strengthen his voice. He started out going every Wednesday and right away, I could hear him better. But it didn’t last; by Sunday, his voice was weaker. We increased visits to twice a week and that carried him over. He’d been going for six months when our daughter had a baby. By then, he could miss occasional sessions and his voice stayed strong. We went to stay with her for a month so I could help out. By the time we returned home, his voice was so weak I could hardly hear him.   –Clara

Similar stories from caregivers abound, with reports that acupuncture:
  • Relieves anxiety, agitation, tension and stress
  • Improves sleep and speech
  • Decreases anger, combativeness and acting-out
On the negative side:
  • Treatment requires a trained and certified professional.
  • Results are temporary. Treatment must to be administered at least weekly and the results disappear if treatments stop.
  • Treatment can be expensive and is not always covered by insurance.
  • The treatment’s intrusive nature might be frightening to a person who is unable to understand the process.
  • Some people may not be able to lie still and leave the needles alone for the required amount of time.
Acupressure: This therapy is very similar to acupuncture except that hand pressure rather than needles stimulate the strategic points in the body. Used appropriately, acupressure appears to provide help similar to that of acupuncture:
  • Relieves anxiety, agitation, tension and stress
  • Improves sleep
  • Decreases anger, combativeness and acting-out
Acupressure is mild and non-intrusive, which gives it some advantage over acupuncture for the average LBD family. It is:
  • Easier to use and less frightening.
  • Safe for non-professionals to use. Care partners can learn to do it at home and care staff can learn to provide it in residential facilities.
  • Less expensive.
Disadvantages:
  • The milder treatments wear off sooner. Maintaining results may require several sessions per week, often daily.
  • Professionals do have more training and background knowledge and may be able to do a better job. However, acupressure is seldom covered by insurance.
Massage and touch therapy. Massage therapy, the of manipulating muscles and limbs, can treat the whole body or just certain areas. Light touch can sometimes be more effective than words.  Care partners report that it works well for:
  • Relaxation and sleep improvement
  • Anxiety, agitation, tension and stress reduction
  • Pain reduction. Massage is especially helpful if the pain is from tense muscles.
  • Direction. A light touch can sometimes work better than words to provide direction. It gently pulls the attention back to the job at hand and adds a sense of caring at the same time.
Advantages:
  • Care partners can learn to do basic massage at home.
  • Gentle massaging can be a time of togetherness between care partner and loved one.
Disadvantages:
  • Results are temporary. They require ongoing, sometimes daily, use.
  • Deep muscle massage requires strength and stamina a care partner may not have.
  • A professional masseuse has more training and strength but may not be covered by insurance or may be covered only for a limited time.
Summary: Although acupuncture may work better for stress reduction and related issues, its disadvantages may make it less attractive to the home-based caregiver than acupressure or massage. With some basic training, either of these therapies may be useful for treating stress related issues that otherwise might require medication. If medication is still required, the dosage needed will likely be decreased.

14 comments:

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  6. During an acupressure session, you lie fully clothed on a soft massage table. The practitioner gently presses on acupressure points on your body. A session typically lasts about one hour. You may need several sessions for the best results.

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