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Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation

Small study finds acupressure cut symptoms beyond mere placebo effect

MONDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- Acupressure wristbands might help cancer patients experience almost a 25 percent less nausea during radiation treatments, a new study says.

The finding, published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, also discounted the common belief that such non-Western medical treatments act more as a placebo than an actual pain reliever.

"We know the placebo effect exists; the problem is that we don't know how to measure it very well," corresponding author Joseph A. Roscoe, a research associate professor at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a university news release. "In this study, we attempted to manipulate the information we gave to patients to see if their expectations about nausea could be changed. As it turned out, our information to change people's expectations had no effect, but we still found that the wristbands reduce nausea symptoms."

The wristbands put pressure on a "nausea point" identified by traditional Chinese acupuncture. The pressure acts to change the flow of universal chi energy, according to the Eastern belief.

The study involved 88 people who experienced nausea after radiation treatments for cancer. Some were given wristbands to wear, and the others were not. And about half of those in the wristband group were also given information that explicitly said the wristbands cut down on nausea, whereas handouts given to the others with wristbands contained more neutral information.

Those with wristbands experienced a 24 percent decrease in nausea, regardless of which set of information they were given before the experiment. The group without wristbands reported just a 5 percent lessening of nausea.

"Some of our body's feelings and sensations are ambiguous and subject to interpretation," Roscoe said. "Your mind cannot make a blister go away or reduce hair loss, but it can interpret ambiguous abdominal sensations and decide how much nausea they represent, based on our expectations."

More information

The Alternative Medicine Foundation has more about alternative medical treatments.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: University of Rochester Medical Center, news release, April 8, 2009

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