Acupressure : Safe Form of Traditional Chinese Medicine for the Treatment of Numerous Diseases

When you localize pain, you unconsciously reach for it. Your hand gently massage the area of discomfort and in some cases, you may find a relief. That is the basic principle of acupressure.

Also called pressure acupuncture, acupressure is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine following the same principles as acupuncture. It involves a manipulation of the patient using primarily hands.

Originated in ancient China, it is an alternative form of therapy used to relieve symptoms of many disorders and improve the quality of life. It is one of the fastest growing approaches to relaxation, pain relief and body healing.

Many people are not familiar with the real benefits of the acupressure massage, so in this text we will try to explain every aspect of this non-invasive and non-pharmacological method.

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What is Acupressure?

Acupressure is a type of acupuncture, but without the needles.

It stimulates the flow of the qi (chi) – vital energy in the body. Qi flows through meridians (channels) near the surface of the body and is essential for sustaining life and there are 12 of them.

Acupressure points or acupoints are located on the meridians. The meridian begins at patient’s fingertip, then goes to his brain and then connects with the specific organ. When the practitioner applies certain amount of the pressure on the acupoint it releases the blocked qi, and the balance between Yin and Yang (contradictory opposites) is restored. There are 2 types of acupressure points:

  • Local points are the actual points where the patient experiences pain or discomfort, source of the pain.
  • Trigger points are points connected with the local points, and represent a pain caused by a problem elsewhere in the body. Trigger point is a small cramp in a muscle that blocks the qi and causes discomfort. Massaging the trigger point provides a relief both at the trigger and local point.

There are literally thousands of acupoints on the body. So, the acupoints used in treatments may or may not be in the same area as the symptom of the illness.

Acupressure therapist uses his/her palms, fingers, knuckles, elbows, and feet to promote patients’ well-being.

The pressure may be in a form of circular movement, pushing the acupoint in and out, gentle tapping the acupoint, or the combination, and can last for several second to minutes. The treatment should not be painful, although patients may experience certain level of sensitivity of the acupoint. You can choose the length of the treatment depending on the area treated.

Acupressure massage can also be used as an addition to conventional medical treatments to speed up the healing process and eliminate toxin build-up in the body. It can even be self-administered in some basic form to relax and ease pain – especially when patients suffer from neck, back, sinus pain and headaches (as a self-healing technique). It is called Pressure Point Therapy, where by holding these “pockets of stress” you can feel relief almost instantly. But make sure you consult your acupressure therapist for proper instruction.

Acupressure vs. Acupuncture

The difference between acupressure and acupuncture is the use of needles. Acupuncture uses thin, sterile needles to provoke the activation of energy, while acupuncture uses the controlled pressure on acupoints to do the same. The pressure applied may be greater or lesser intensity, depends on the patient’s preference.

Benefits of Acupressure

Qi in patients can be blocked, weak, or overactive. Blocked qi needs to be unblocked, weak qi needs tonifying, and overactive qi needs to be calmed. In addition, many people swear they feel much better after qi being balanced, and here are some of the benefits noted:

1. Relaxing mind and body – When you are stressed and anxious, your muscles are in spasm. They tend to tighten; when you are constantly under stress, you may experience pain in joints, neck, back, head and in other body parts. When your therapist massages right pressure points, then the qi continues to flow. Relaxed muscles mean relaxed body, and relaxed body leads to relaxed mind. Acupuncture enhances blood flow, making tissues more oxygenated. It also increases levels of hormones dopamine and serotonin known as “happy hormones”, which can improve your sleeping too.

2. Reducing pain and discomfort – We all know how pain can be unpleasant, it can lead to more muscle spasms. Acupressure promotes production of hormone called endorphin, which is a natural pain killer.

3. Faster body healing – It is directly linked to the better stimulation of circulatory, lymphatic and hormonal systems. More relaxed system allows oxygen and nutrients reach damaged tissues so consequently, toxins are easily flushed away. This empowers your body’s natural healing ability.

Does Acupressure Work?

In many cases, the answer is yes. Controlled pressure releases endorphins, but some theories suggest that pressure may somehow influence the autonomic nervous system. Some studies exploring the effectiveness of the acupressure suggest that it eased the pain in injured ancles in athletes, and decreased nausea in patients after the chemotherapy.

Safety and Limitations

Acupressure is considered safe when certified, well-trained and experienced acupressure therapist performs it. It should not be painful, but mild sensations at the pressure point like soreness or stiffness are present. The treatment should not leave bruises. If you experience any kind of pain or discomfort, you should always tell your therapist.

Acupressure cannot be performed on open wounds, bruises, scar tissue, varicose veins and rash.

Pregnant women should be careful because pressure on some specific points may induce contractions.

It is not a desirable treatment for serious cardiac patients, especially those taking blood thinners, because a drop in blood pressure may cause severe problems.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, spinal injury or some other bone disease that can worsen due to physical manipulation you should avoid acupressure.

The treatment should be avoided after a meal, alcohol or narcotic consumption.

The therapist may ask you to drink water after the massage in order to eliminate the metabolic waste and toxins from your body.

What Does It Treat?

Acupressure is a holistic alternative treatment used for promoting body’s self-healing, it is used for a numerous disorders.

  • Acupressure for headaches/migraines – acupoint Large Intestine 4 is situated in the web of the left hand between thumb and the index finger and especially helps with severe headaches.
  • Acupressure for sleep Anmian (or “peaceful sleep” acupoint) is located behind the ear. It treats insomnia and triggers relaxation.
  • Acupressure for back pain – pressing the Kidney 3 acupoint located in the inner ankle can help ease chronic lower back pain.
  • Acupressure for anxiety – acupoint Urinary Bladder 10, located at the base of the skull slightly to the left helps with mental and emotional health related-issues. Acupoint Heart 7 on the inside of the wrist is also good for easing panic attacks.
  • Acupressure for menstrual cramps – by activating Stomach 29 acupoint (above the pubic bone) the menstruation is regulated. This point is contraindicated in pregnancy.
  • Acupressure for sinus – in the nasolabial groove, slightly above nostrils, lays Large Intestine 20 It opens nasal passages and helps with nasal sinusitis, rhinitis and reduced sense of smell.
  • Facial acupressure – there are many acupoints located on the face. Some of them located under the pupil and below the eye socket are invigorating eyes, and those located on the jaw benefit teeth.
  • Acupressure for high blood pressure Yintang acupoint which lies midway between the eyebrows helps with lowering high blood pressure, and also helps with headaches.
  • Foot acupressure – massaging different points on the top of the foot and in the arches can help with relaxing and easing a general pain in the body (so called myofascial release).
  • Acupressure for nausea – acupoint Pericardium 6, located at the center on the inner side of the lower wrist can relieve nausea caused by anesthesia and surgery. Liver 4 and Large Intestine 3 acupoints can also help.