A feasibility study of auricular therapy and self-administered acupressure for insomnia following cancer treatment

John Gareth Hughes, Penny Towler, Lesley Storey, Sara Louise Wheeler, Alex Molassiotis

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Introduction: Many cancer patients experience sleeping difficulties which can persist several years after the completion of cancer treatment. Previous research suggests that acupuncture, and variants of acupuncture (acupressure, auricular therapy) may be effective treatment options for sleep disturbance. However, current evidence is limited for cancer patients.

Methods: Feasibility study with 3 arms. Seven cancer patients with insomnia randomised to receive either auricular therapy (attaching semen vaccariae seeds to ear acupoints) (n=4), self-acupressure (n=1) or no treatment (n=2). Participants assigned to receive auricular therapy or self-acupressure stimulated the acupoints each night an hour before retiring to bed. The duration of participant involvement was 5 weeks. Subjective sleep quality was measured at baseline and post-treatment using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). The impact of treatment on concerns of importance to the participants themselves was measured using the Measure Yourself Concerns and Wellbeing (MYCaW). Each participant also completed a treatment log book.

Results: All participants completed their treatment. All auricular therapy and self-acupressure participants recorded clinically significant improvements in global PSQI scores. In the auricular therapy arm mean global PSQI reduced from 12.5 at baseline to 8 following completion of treatment. In the self-acupressure arm PSQI reduced from 15 to 11. While in the no treatment arm the mean PSQI score was 14.5 at both baseline and follow up.

Conclusions: Despite the limited sample size, both auricular therapy and self-acupressure may represent potentially effective treatments for cancer patients with insomnia. The positive findings suggest further research is warranted into both treatment modalities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-627
JournalEuropean Journal of Integrative Medicine
Issue number6
Early online date17 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


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