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JNCI Cancer Spectr. 2018 Nov;2(4):pky064. doi: 10.1093/jncics/pky064. Epub 2019 Jan 16.

Impact of Self-Acupressure on Co-Occurring Symptoms in Cancer Survivors.

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Department of Family Medicine.
Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Department of Biostatistics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Department of Anesthesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
College of Nursing, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, VA Ann Arbor Health Care System, GRECC, Ann Arbor, MI.
Sleep and Circadian Research Laboratory.
Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.



Cancer survivors with fatigue often experience depressive symptoms, anxiety, and pain. Previously, we reported that self-acupressure improved fatigue; however, its impact on other co-occurring symptoms and their involvement in treatment action has not been explored.


Changes in depressive symptoms, anxiety, and pain were examined prior to and following two formulas of self-acupressure and usual care using linear mixed models in 288 women from a previously reported clinical trial. Participants were categorized by random assignment into one of three groups: 1) relaxing acupressure, 2) stimulating acupressure, or 3) usual care. Moderators investigated were body mass index, age, depressive symptoms, anxiety, sleep and pain, and mediators were change in these symptoms.


Following treatment, depressive symptoms improved statistically significantly for the relaxing acupressure group (41.5%) compared with stimulating acupressure (25%) and usual care (7.7%). Both acupressure groups were associated with greater improvements in anxiety than usual care, but only relaxing acupressure was associated with greater reductions in pain severity, and only stimulating acupressure was associated with greater reductions in pain interference. There were no statistically significant moderators of sleep quality, anxiety, or depressive symptoms. Fatigue statistically significantly moderated pain, and age statistically significantly modified fatigue. Changes in depressive symptoms and sleep quality statistically significantly mediated the relationship between relaxing acupressure and usual care on fatigue; however, the effect was small.


Acupressure was associated with greater improvements than usual care in anxiety, pain, and symptoms of depression in breast cancer survivors with troublesome fatigue. These findings warrant further evaluation in suitably controlled randomized trials.

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