Chinese Medicine offers broad approaches to dealing with cognitive decline and associated issues. Complete treatment with acupuncture and herbal medicine, however, is often not available. Acupressure, touch therapy and other alternatives are viable and relatively easy to administer in various residential care settings.
Spanish researchers recently conducted a study evaluating ear acupressure and massage therapy in the improvement of pain, anxiety, and depression in an elderly population diagnosed with dementia.
Researchers recruited 120 senior citizens all with dementia living in assisted care facilities. There were divided into an ear acupressure gropu, a massage therapy group and a control group. Using pain, anxiety and depression scales (Doloplus2, cornell and Campbell) they evaluated patients over 5 months. Treatment was provided for 3 months and then no treatment for 2 months following to help evaluate what changes would remain post-treatment.
They found that overall the ear acupressure group had the most significantly positive changes in the various measures across the board. Pain and anxiety showed the most positive changes in the 3rd month of treamtent. Massage therapy also showed positive changes but not quite as strong as auricular acupressure.
Personally, I would speculate that in this population massage therapy may have been too stimulating or possibly even perceived as invasive by some to achieve the strongest result. Auricular acupressure, however, would be as non-threatening as nearly any touch therapy could be and that alone could have led to better results. That said, there are a number of auricular points which have shown strong changes in brain chemistry related to anxiety, pain, etc. in numerous studies so there is likely good reasons for the auricular treatments to have achieved superior results.
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