Acupressure Wristbands Reduce Nausea from Radiation Therapy

Patients who wore an acupressure wristband during radiation treatment had less nausea. However, it made no difference if they received a leaflet telling them that previous research showed that the bands reduced nausea or not.

The patients in the study were receiving radiation to the intestinal tract and had already experienced some nausea during treatment.  Wearing the bands reduced nausea scores by about 24 percent.

To test the theory that the reduction was caused by patient expectations or a placebo effect, half of the group who wore wristbands received a positive handout saying that research showed wristbands reduced nausea.  The other half had a neutral handout.  There was no difference between the two groups.  Both had less nausea.

Another group who didn’t have wristbands, had a very small reduction in nausea of about 5 percent.

Joseph A. Roscoe, Ph.D., who led the study at the University of Rochester’s Wilmot Cancer Center explained,

We know the placebo effect exists, the problem is that we don’t know how to measure it very well.  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.

The research team concluded,

Acupressure bands are an effective, low-cost, nonintrusive, well-accepted, and safe adjunct to standard antiemetic medication. An attempt to boost the efficacy of the acupressure bands by providing positive information was not successful.

SOURCE: Roscoe et al., Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, published online March 28, 2009.


  1. Kate Murphy says

    While I don’t know the exact wristband that was used in the trial in Rochester, there are acupressure bands sold over-the-counter in drugstores under brand names that include SeaBands, MediMates, TravelBand, and BioBands. They may be advertised to prevent motion sickness.

    All work in a similar way. A stretchy fabric band holds one or two small nuggets at a point on the inner wrist that has been identified with reducing nausea.

    Note that the wristbands did not replace anti-nausea medicines for radiation nausea, but were added to those drugs. Talk to your radiologist.

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