Acupressure has been used for thousands of years in China. Acupressure uses the same principles and pressure points of Acupuncture, but acupuncture uses needles whereas acupressure is a way of healing using fingers to press key healing points to stimulate the body’s natural curing abilities. When the pressure points are pressed, it relaxes the muscles reducing muscle tension, increases blood circulation and improves life energy to aid healing. Acupressure has many benefits, but the main benefits are to relieve pain, to strengthen the sexual reproductive system, detoxify the body for better health and tone facial and back muscles. It promotes general wellness and relaxation and hence is helpful to treat diseases.

Acupressure is not a complete medical treatment in itself, but it complements other medical treatments. It is very useful to relieve pain during injuries and improves muscle tone and circulation and relieves neuromuscular problems. The Chinese have used acupressure for beauty treatment for ages to improve the texture of skin and tone facial muscles. It reduces wrinkles on the face without the use of medicines. It is also useful to relieve pain of patients with cancer or those with broken bones.

Acupressure can be done by the individual himself, if he is qualified to do the same, although it is always safe to get it done by a qualified personnel.

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Pressure is created by using fingers, knuckle, palms, elbows or feet or special devices to apply pressure to acupoints on the body. Some practitioners of acupressure also use stretching or acupressure massage or other techniques. The pressure points are the same irrespective of the method. The variations are in the amount of pressure applied and the methods of applying pressure. The pressure is increased for about 30 seconds, held steadily for 30 seconds to two minutes and then gradually decreased for 30 seconds. This process is repeated 3-5 times.

For acupressure, the patient is made to lie on a soft massage table, fully clothed. A session lasts for about an hour where the appropriate body parts are pressed. The number of sessions required depends on the severity of the problem but a number of sessions are generally required for best results.

The theory of acupressure

There are many therapies called Asian bodywork therapies which have their root in traditional Chinese medicine. Acupressure is one of them, the others being medical qigong and Tuina. There is a Japanese form of acupressure called Shiatsu.

Chinese theories have acupoints or acupressure points that are said to lie along the meridians or channels of our bodies. These points are the same points that are used in acupuncture. Chinese believe that vital energy or life force called qi (ch’i) flows through these invisible channels. There are 12 vital channels in the body and all the organs are connected to these channels thus establishing a network of communication throughout the body. These meridians start at the finger tips which connect to the brain and then to the respective organ or organs. This Chinese theory believes that when one of the meridians is blocked or out of balance, illness occurs. Acupressure is one of the traditional medicines that help to restore balance and help cure illness. Acupressure is said to help regulate opposing forces of negative energy (yin) and positive energy (yang) in the body channels and helps restore health and balance. There are people who believe that acupressure helps treat the energy fields of the mind, emotions and spirit. It is also believed that the therapist can transmit vital energy to another person. Acupressure points have a high electrical conductivity at the surface of the skin which conducts and channels healing energy effectively.

An acupressure point has two identities and ways of working. When the actual area where pain is present is stimulated, it is called the local point. When it relieves pain from another distant part of the body, it is then called the trigger point. This trigger works through a human electrical channel or meridian. The meridians are considered as the master communication system which connects the organs with the sensory, physiological and emotional parts of the body. It is believed that these points also helps us to increase our spiritual awareness.

Pressure points in our body

There are hundreds of pressure points in our body, though practitioners of acupressure refer to 12 main channels or meridians that connect all the main organs of the body. Some of the acupressure points lie under major muscular groups and are found within a muscular cord, band or knot of tension, whereas points near the bone structure lie in an indentation. The 365 points have been named with Chinese characters and each point has a meaning from which we can identify the position or benefits of the point. Some of the points are hidden clarity which helps clear the mind, shoulder’s corner refers to the pressure point in the shoulders, the three mile point gives extra energy to run another three miles and is used commonly by sports persons.

Some of the names of the pressure points have been used for meditation. This is done by pressing the point and repeating its name and visualizing its benefits. A couple of examples are cited in to demonstrate the point. One of them is the ‘Sea of Vitality’. This is a point in the lower back. When we press this point and breath deeply and concentrate on the breath as it travels through the body, it will strengthen and heal the lower back. Another example is the letting go point which is present in the upper outer chest. This point has to be pressed, deep breaths taken and we have to repeat the words that we are letting go of our negative thoughts and irritability. This process will give us immense relief both mentally and physically. These examples are to demonstrate the power of mind to help in the healing process.

The main points used by acupressure practitioners are

  • large intestine 4 (L14) which is the soft, flesh web between the thumb and forefinger and is very good for relieving pain, headaches etc. and also clears the body of excess heat thus preventing cold and fever
  • liver 3 (LR 3) between the big and second toe, it is an excellent point to relieve hypertension. It also helps to control insom, diabetes and painful breasts.
  • spleen 6 (SP 6) which is about the width of three fingers above the inner ankle bone. It is the tender area of the lower calf muscle. This helps to improve digestion and reduces the feeling of distension. It improves blood circulation and relieves heaviness and tiredness
  • stomach 36 (ST 36) is the 36th point on the stomach meridian and aids in digestion. It is also helpful in preventing diabetes, aging, weakness and also is good for arthritis
  • large intestine 11 (LI 11) improves immunity and protects against infections. It also relieves stiffness of the elbows
  • Urinary bladder 40 (BL 40) is an important point to treat back pain, lumbago and knee stiffness. It also reduces lower back pain
  • gallbladder 34 (GB 34) is used for people with insomnia, migraine and anxiety. It is said to prevent the formation of gall stones and treat swollen knees during arthritis
  • lungs (LU 7) is to treat migraine, asthma and breathlessness
  • heart 7 (HE 7) is the point which deals with the emotions of the heart and harmonizes the function of the heart
  • kidney 1 (KID 1) is useful for older people whose kidneys become weak due to old age. Using acupressure and warming this point or immersing the feet in warm water will help.

Michael Reed Gach, Ph. D has shown with illustrations over 100 self-acupressure healing applications. Using acupressure to stimulate one point can benefit a number of problems.

Areas of health benefit using Acupressure

The main areas of use of acupressure is to relieve pain, maintain good health and balance energy. Acupressure is thought to relieve muscle tension, improve circulation and relaxation. Stress relief is said to aid in the resistance to diseases and improve general wellness. A number of videos and applications are available from which we can learn about the pressure points and treatments of common illnesses like pain, fatigue, stress, addictions etc.

Although research into acupressure is in its infancy, a number of users of acupressure have claimed improvement after practicing acupressure. Some of the widely demonstrated benefits are seen below.

  • Nausea: Nausea and vomiting which occurs during pregnancy, motion sickness, after surgery, during spinal anesthesia and after chemotherapy has been successfully treated using acupressure. The point is between the the two large tendons on the inside of the wrist (PC 6) which starts at the base of the palm. Wristbands are also sold across the counter to work on the pressure points which work for some people.
  • Cancer: There are some studies which have been done which states that apart from relieving the nausea from chemotherapy, acupressure also helps reduce stress and pain, improve energy levels, and some other symptoms of cancer and/or its treatment.
  • Pain: Relieving pain, especially those of the lower back, postoperative pain or headache. The L14 pressure point is used to relieve headache . This releases endorphins and promotes anti-inflammatory relief from arthritis etc. It is also thought to be effective for depression and anxiety. Acupressure is also effective to relieve the tensions in the back. The pressure points are on either side of the spine and on the upper back. Acupressure along with chiropractic treatment ( non surgical spinal manipulation for treatment of nervous system and/or musculoskeletal system) is very effective in treating back pain. These have been practiced in China for ages. Acupressure relieves the tightness associated with back pain and sciatica.
  • Beauty treatments: Acupressure has been used by Chinese for centuries for beauty treatment to tone and strengthen facial muscles and improve the texture of the skin. It also reduces wrinkles without drugs or surgery. Acupressure along with simple facial exercises not only relaxes the muscles, but the removal of toxins from the skin and muscles also gives a general feeling of well-being.
  • Improve sex: Knowing acupressure points and using them during sexual intercourse is said to improve arousal, sexual endurance and pleasure. Acupressure also helps in premature ejaculation, impotency, infertility etc. by unblocking the sexual energy points and improving sexual energy during lovemaking.
  • Trauma and emotional pain: We experience trauma in our everyday lives. Trauma could be due to accidents, pressure from work, home, children, divorces etc. When we experience sudden shock or trauma, we involuntarily tighten our muscles. The tension prevents energy from flowing freely in the body. This is said to lead to physical and emotional imbalances. Acupressure relaxes the muscles and also the emotional imbalances associated with tension which may otherwise stay buried deep down in our bodies.
  • Addictions: A number of factors including pressures, pain, tension etc. make people addicted to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes etc. Overeating is also another symptom of emotional imbalance. Acupressure helps remove all the negative feelings in the body since it releases pain, stress and tension and improves body awareness. While drugs help numb the pain, acupressure helps regain stability, and improves the person’s morale and self-esteem. There are pressure points in the body which helps a person deal with addiction and come out of it by improving his will power.

Other benefits:

  • Acupressure is used to treat stress,
  • sleeplessness,
  • congestion of the chest due to cold or fever,
  • bed wetting, constipation etc.
  • The pressure therapy has been found to be useful to treat women for post menstrual trauma, menopause, pain during periods, mood swings, hot flashes back pain, nausea etc.

Precautions with acupressure:

Acupressure is a very safe therapy without any side effects. But people with specific illnesses like cancer, heart disease or other chronic conditions should consult their doctor before starting acupressure. Also, acupressure should be done from an experienced, certified and licensed practitioner. It is better to avoid acupressure by people having the following conditions:

  • if acupressure is used to treat cancer and if it has spread to the bones
  • if a person is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, spinal injury or bone disease which worsens with manipulation
  • those having varicose veins
  • pregnant women since pressing some points may induce contractions

Side effects

Some people may feel soreness at the pressed points after an acupressure session or a temporary feeling of being light headed. Apart from these temporary discomforts, acupressure is very safe to practice.

There are Western practitioners who do not believe in Acupressure and the meridians or channels in the body. According to them the benefits of acupressure is from the stimulation of endorphins which are natural pain relievers and also from reduced muscular tension and improved circulation. But Acupressure is worth a try since it is an external application and has no known side effects.