A new type of acupressure wristbands may offer a safe and cost effective way to keep nausea from affecting cancer patients while receiving radiation treatment, say researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The researchers say that a clinical trial conducted by them dispels the notion that the placebo effect, an outcome related to one's body that one expect to happen, may be why elastic wristbands reduce nausea.
"We know the placebo effect exists, the problem is that we don't know how to measure it very well," said Dr. Joseph A. Roscoe, corresponding author and research associate professor at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at URMC.
"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," he added.
The American Cancer Society-funded clinical trial involved three groups of 88 people, who had reported some degree of nausea after receiving at least two radiation treatments for any type of cancer.
Although chemotherapy is more closely linked with producing nausea and vomiting, radiation to the intestinal tract can also cause nausea, Roscoe said.
The patients in the first group were not given the wristbands, and served as the control group.
The patients who wore wristbands were divided into two groups: those who received information and bar graphs showing that the bands were found to reduce nausea in previous research, and those who received more neutral information.
The researchers observed a 23.8 percent decrease in nausea for all the patients who wore wristbands, compared to a 4.8 percent decrease in the control group.
They said that there was no difference between the two wristband groups.
"Some of our body's feelings and sensations are ambiguous and subject to interpretation. 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," Roscoe said.
Targeting the wrist as a nausea point is a staple of Chinese acupuncture medicine.
Stimulating that point on the wrist with a needle or the pressure of an elastic band is said to unblock the flow of universal chi energy.
A research article on the study has been published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.