Play it by ear: fighting fatigue during chemotherapy with aural acupressure

February 2020 Healthy Living Willem van Altena
doctor putting acupuncture needles in the ear

Aural acupressure may be effective in reducing fatigue in lung cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. In December, BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care published results from a Chinese study that suggest that stimulating pressure points on the ear reduces the side effects from chemotherapy.

It is estimated that around 80% of all cancer patients undergoing chemo therapy experience side effects such as nausea, pain and fatigue. Especially lung cancer patients are heavily affected by this. And while it already has been shown that aural acupressure may offer relief for nausea and pain, no research had been done yet regarding cancer-related fatigue.

Dr. Li Tian from Suzhou university conducted an experiment involving 100 lung cancer patients who were being treated with chemotherapy. The group was divided into three sections, one of which did not undergo aural acupressure at all. The other two sections either had ‘ear seeds’ applied to pressure points on their ear shells or tiny magnetic metal balls. The patients were taught how to apply acupressure on themselves as soon as they felt pain, nausea or tiredness.

After 9 weeks, the two groups that used aural acupressure showed significantly less fatigue than the group that only received the traditional treatment. With the group using traditional ear seeds outperforming the group using the magnetic metal balls. On the Cancer Fatigue Scale, that runs from 0 to 60, the ear seed-users improved by over 4 points compared to those who did not use aural acupressure. A small improvement in sleep quality was also noticed, along with reduced anxiety. The researchers do note that 15 patients did not complete the 9 week program, and it remains unclear why they failed to adhere to the acupressure regime.

Read the original article in BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care HERE.