June 17, 2014
Science Daily/University of Alberta
Self-administered shiatsu is being explored as sleep treatment for patients with chronic pain. Researchers are exploring the traditional Japanese massage practice called shiatsu as a potential treatment to help patients with chronic pain find slumber -- and stay asleep. A small pilot study followed nine people living with chronic pain as they self-administered shiatsu pressure techniques on their hands at bedtime.
"One of the barriers to falling asleep for people who have pain is they worry about what's going to happen and while you're laying there you're thinking about all these negative things, it occupies your attention," Brown says. "This relates to research on attention in cognitive theory."
The pilot was an attempt to explore low-cost, unintimidating alternatives to drugs to help people with chronic pain fall asleep, noting medication is seldom recommended for long-term use. Brown collaborated on the project with shiatsu therapist Leisa Bellmore of the Artists' Health Centre at Toronto Western Hospital and U of A colleague Geoff Bostick.
For patients suffering from chronic pain due to low-back and other musculoskeletal injuries, the only thing that matters is finding results that work, Brown says. Not only does sleep deprivation lower a person's pain threshold, it also affects their health, from increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and traffic accidents.
More research is needed in foundational areas to break the cycle, she adds. "If you have insomnia, you face a higher risk of experiencing chronic pain. If you have chronic pain, you're not going to get as much sleep."