Treatment for a patient diagnosed with anorexia nervosa often includes a multi-disciplinary care team of nutritionists and psychological support that focuses on getting the patient back to a healthy weight and normalizing their eating habits.
The team conducted a randomized control trial to compare the effects of acupressure and massage in a population of inpatients with anorexia nervosa. The patients received treatment twice a week during the first three weeks and a weekly treatment in the following three weeks.
Twenty-six patients over the age of 15, diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, were randomly placed into the acupuncture group or the active control group. The acupuncture group received acupuncture at five common points and additional points based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis. The active control group received acupressure and light massage.
The effects of massage therapy on the patients were measured by the primary and secondary outcomes. The primary outcome was body-mass index (BMI), and the secondary outcomes included eating disorder psychopathology, anxiety and depression. These were measured and evaluated at the start of the trial and when the trial was completed.
The data showed a trend of improvement toward normative levels and clinical improvements in the participants' quality of life. There were also clinical patterns relative to the two groups; restraint in the acupuncture group and eating concern in the acupressure and massage, active control group. Although this was a pilot trial, it supports previous evidence on the positive affects of massage therapy for anorexic patients.