The Effectiveness of Acupressure Therapy on Anxiety: A Scoping Review

Wang, Stephanie Yifan
Morse, Zac
Kohut, Susan
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Bachelor of Health Science (Honours)
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Auckland University of Technology

Background: Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are considered the most common psychiatric disorders in the western world. Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent among the adult population; however, they remain underdiagnosed and under-treated because of their heterogeneity and the presence of various somatic symptoms. Pharmacological and psychological therapies are generally the first line of treatment for anxiety disorders. However, because of anxiety disorders’ high recurrence and chronicity, the side effects and high costs associated with conventional treatment modalities can also lead to under-treatment. Acupressure is a non-invasive alternative to acupuncture and has demonstrated effectiveness in managing psychosomatic disorders. However, due to high clinical disparities in the method of clinical application of acupressure treatment within existing research, it is difficult to recommend the best practice for anxiety management.

Objective: The purpose of this dissertation is to explore and summarise the types of acupressure interventions, the most frequently used acupoints, methods of application, treatment time, and the effectiveness of such interventions in managing anxiety through a systematic scoping review.

Methods: The scoping review protocol was reported following the preferred reporting items for systemic reviews and meta-analyses extension for scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR) and the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) manual for evidence synthesis guidelines, which was published in July 2022 and acted as the fundamental guide for the scoping review process. A total of six electronic databases (CINAHL, MEDLINE, Dentistry and Oral Sciences Source, AMED, PsycINFO, and Scopus), Google, and Google scholar were searched to identify eligible sources.

Results: A total of 76 studies were included in this review, with the publication range from 1987 to 2022. Three categories of acupressure intervention were noted within the included studies: acupressure on traditional acupoints, acupressure on auricular acupoints, and a combination of traditional and auricular acupoints. The most frequently used acupoints, application methods, the most common issues where anxiety was treated with acupressure and the effectiveness of acupressure on anxiety management are identified.

Conclusions: Acupressure is an effective, non-invasive, low-cost alternative for reducing anxiety in various settings despite the discrepancies in the intervention protocol. Acupressure therapy in managing anxiety is highly recommended for routine nursing care in patients with complex medical conditions, emergency and pre-operative settings, students, and healthcare workers at risk of burnout. Further studies, systematic reviews and meta-analyses are required to provide a more in-depth understanding and recommendations on whether acupressure intervention using the most used acupoints identified from this review can effectively reduce other types of anxiety disorders, such as social or specific phobias.

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