Can I Pressure You Into Some Pain Relief?

Ischemic Compression (IC) is a form or acupressure that causes local circulatory, central nervous system and lymphatic effects.

In addition, IC affects fascial structures that encapsulate muscles, tendons, ligaments and organs and can enhance their physiological function.

IC is done by applying steady pressure  over a trigger point until it softens/releases. This can be done statically, dynamically (with motion), or in a position that provokes pain.

Applying compression to the tissue temporarily compromises the circulation.  The body then compensates by reflexively increasing circulation.

The result is a decrease in inflammation, an increase in nutrition and the production of endorphins (Natural opiates).


IC is minimally invasive, has few side effects and is cost-effective.


What doe the research show?

Neck pain

The application of IC is a safe and effective method to successfully treat  myofascial trigger points. In a case study of a patient with neck pain, active cervical range of motion, basal electrical activity of the trapezius muscle and myofascial trigger point sensitivity gained short-term positive effects with the application of one single ischemic compression session.


Shoulder pain

The pathophysiological mechanisms of shoulder pain is often poorly understood. Myofascial trigger points, which are often a component of  musculoskeletal pain, can serve as an alternative diagnosis and treatment approach  for shoulder disorders.

Deactivation of myofascial trigger points in the muscles of the shoulder in patients with chronic pain often contributes to a decrease in the overall pain along with improvements in motion and function.


Elbow pain

Myofascial trigger points in the triceps and extensor muscles can be the major cause of lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow). When conventional treatment protocols for tennis elbow prove less than satisfactory, it may be due to active myofascial trigger points.

Techniques for deep stroking massage of trigger points in the triceps and extensor muscles can  complement or even replace other therapies in the treatment of tennis elbow.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of ischemic compression therapy in the treatment of chronic carpal tunnel syndrome. This practice-based clinical trial suggests that myofascial therapy using ischemic compression on the biceps,  pronator teres and subscapularis muscles could be a useful approach to reduce symptoms associated with the carpal tunnel syndrome. Patients’ perceived improvement in functional capacities persisted over a 6-month period.



Low back pain

129 patients with chronic low back pain were treated with acupressure or physical therapy for one month.

Acupressure conferred an 89% reduction in significant disability compared with physical therapy. The improvement in disability score in the acupressure group compared with the physical group remained at six month follow-up.

Acupressure was effective in reducing low back pain in terms of disability, pain scores, and functional status. The benefit was sustained for six months.


COMMENT: Many physical therapists, chiropractors and naturopathic physicians use IC as part of their treatment of musculoskeletal problems, such as lower back pain.


Knee Pain

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is one of the most common causes of knee pain.

A treatment regimen with manual ischemic compression applied to peri-patellar and retro-patellar regions of the knee was found to be effective in short and medium term at reducing symptoms of patellofemoral syndrome for up to 6 months.


Foot Pain

This study investigated the effects of trigger point manual therapy (TrP) combined with a self-stretching program for the management of patients with plantar heel pain.

Patients receiving a combination of self-stretching and TrP tissue intervention showed a greater improvement in pain, as compared to those who received only the self-stretching protocol.

This study provides evidence that the addition of TrP manual therapies to a self-stretching protocol resulted in superior short-term outcomes as compared to a self-stretching program alone in the treatment of patients with plantar heel pain.



Painful Menstruation

Forty participants with dysmenorrhea were assigned to either the acupressure group or a control group.  There was a statistically significant decrease in pain score for the acupressure vs the control group.

This study demonstrated that acupressure has an immediate pain-relieving effect for dysmenorrhea.




Twenty-eight patients suffering chronic headache were randomly assigned to the acupressure group or the muscle relaxant medication group.

This  study found that 1 month of acupressure treatment is more effective in reducing chronic headache than 1 month of muscle relaxant treatment, and that the effect remains 6 months after treatment.


Can I pressure you into some pain relief?

About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin