Acupressure treatment significantly reduces persistent fatigue and improves quality of life in breast cancer survivors, according to research published in JAMA Oncology.

Suzanna M. Zick, ND, MPH, Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and colleagues, conducted a phase III randomized, single-blind, clinical trial from March 2011 through October 2014, to determine the effect that 6 weeks of self-administered acupressure versus usual care would have on breast cancer survivors.

The researchers recruited 424 survivors of stages 0 to III breast cancer from the Michigan Tumor Registry; all participants had completed cancer treatments 12 months prior to enrollment. After screening, 270 women were randomized to receive either relaxing acupressure (n=94), stimulating acupressure (n=90), or usual care (n=86). Participants in either of the acupressure groups received 15 minutes of acupressure training followed by 6 weeks of daily, self-administered acupressure therapy.

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At baseline, 6 weeks, and 10 weeks, participants’ primary outcomes were assessed using the Brief Fatigue Inventory score; secondary outcomes were measured via the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and the Long-Term Quality of Life Instrument.

At 6 weeks follow-up, participants who had reached normal fatigue levels (Brief Fatigue Inventory score <4) were 66.2%, 60.9%, and 31.3% in relaxing acupressure, stimulating acupressure, and usual care, respectively. At week 10, 56.3%, 60.9%, and 30.1%, respectively, continued to have normal levels of fatigue. Relaxing acupressure was linked to significant improvement in sleep quality compared to usual care at 6 weeks, and quality of life compared to usual care at both 6 and 10 weeks.

“Fatigue is a common and debilitating late-term effect of breast cancer that is associated with poor sleep and decreased quality of life, yet therapies remain limited,” concluded Ms. Zick. “Both acupressure arms significantly reduced persistent fatigue compared to usual care. Relaxing acupressure offers a possible low-cost option for managing symptoms.”


  1. Zick SM, Sen A, Wyatt GK, et al. Investigation of 2 types of self-administered acupressure for persistent cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer survivors. A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(7); doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.1867