ACUPRESSURE POINTS AND MASSAGE TREATMENT
Used for thousands of years in China, acupressure applies the same principles as acupuncture to promote relaxation and wellness and to treat disease. Sometimes called pressure acupuncture, acupressure is often thought of as simply acupuncture without the needles. But what exactly is acupressure and how does it work?
Acupressure is just one of a number of Asian bodywork therapies (ABT) with roots in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Examples of other Asian bodywork therapies are medical qigong and Tuina. Shiatsu is a Japanese form of acupressure.
Traditional Chinese medical theory describes special acupoints, or acupressure points, that lie along meridians, or channels, in your body. These are the same energy meridians and acupoints as those targeted with acupuncture. It is believed that through these invisible channels flows vital energy — or a life force called qi (ch’i). It is also believed that these 12 major meridians connect specific organs or networks of organs, organizing a system of communication throughout your body. The meridians begin at your fingertips, connect to your brain, and then connect to an organ associated with a certain meridian.
According to this theory, when one of these meridians is blocked or out of balance, illness can occur. Acupressure and acupuncture are among the types of TCM that are thought to help restore balance.
Continue reading below…
How Does Acupressure Work?
Acupressure practitioners use their fingers, palms, elbows or feet, or special devices to apply pressure to acupoints on the body’s meridians. Sometimes, acupressure also involves stretching or acupressure massage, as well as other methods.
During an acupressure session, you lie fully clothed on a soft massage table. The practitioner gently presses on acupressure points on your body. A session typically lasts about one hour. You may need several sessions for the best results.
The goal of acupressure or other types of Asian bodywork is to restore health and balance to the body’s channels of energy and to regulate opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy). Some proponents claim acupressure not only treats the energy fields and body but also the mind, emotions, and spirit. Some even believe that therapists can transmit the vital energy (external qi) to another person.
Not all Western practitioners believe that this is possible or even that these meridians exist. Instead, they attribute any results to other factors, such as reduced muscle tension, improved circulation, or stimulation of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.
What Are Common Acupuncture Points?
There are literally hundreds of acupuncture points on the body — too many to name. Here are three that are commonly used by acupuncturists and acupressure practitioners:
- Large intestine 4 (L14): This is in the soft, fleshy web between your thumb and forefinger.
- Liver 3 (LR-3): This is in the soft flesh that sits between your big and 2nd toes. It’s an area similar to L14.
- Spleen 6 (SP-6): This is about three finger widths above your inner anklebone. It is a tender area of the lower calf muscle.
What is acupressure?
Acupressure is a therapy developed over 5,000 years ago as an important aspect of Asian, especially Chinese, medicine. It uses precise finger placement and pressure over specific points along the body. These points follow specific channels, known as meridians – the same channels used in acupuncture. According to Asian medical philosophy, activation of these points with pressure (or needles) can improve blood flow, release tension, and enhance or unblock life-energy, known in China as “qi” or in the English-speaking world as “chi.” This release allows energy to flow more freely through the meridians, promoting relaxation, healing and the restoration of proper function.
It should be noted that the existence of qi and meridians is doubted by many Western scientists. According to this skeptical view, any healing effect from acupuncture or acupressure sessions is not due to the alteration of subtle energy flows along invisible channels, but rather to the same gross physical effects that happen during any kind of massage therapy, including muscular relaxation and improved regional blood flow.
What conditions is acupressure used for?
Acupressure therapy can be used to relieve pain, reduce tension in muscles, improve circulation and promote deep states of relaxation. It is often done by massage therapists and other bodyworkers, but can also be learned as a technique to be done oneself. Individuals can be treated, then trained in various self-care applications and pressure-point formulas for specific conditions. These include nausea and vomiting, motion sickness, headaches, neck and back pain, as well as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, mental and emotional stress, even addiction recovery and learning disorders.
For centuries, the Chinese have used acupressure points as a beauty treatment to enhance muscle tone and increase circulation, especially of facial muscles. This can reportedly improve the condition and appearance of the skin, lessening wrinkles and sagging of the face without drugs or surgery, although clinical trials are needed to confirm this. Acupressure points have also been employed to increase arousal, decrease sexual tension and reportedly aid in alleviating sexual dysfunction, including infertility, decreased sexual desire, premature ejaculation, and impotency.
Following treatment, a practitioner may ask for feedback and offer home exercises or self-care. Because energy work of any kind can cause profound relaxation, care should always be used when rising from the table and returning to a standing posture, as the leg and trunk muscles may feel weak for a time.
Are there any situations where acupressure should be avoided?
Acupressure should not be considered primary treatment for serious illness, and should be used with care during pregnancy as certain points are thought to stimulate uterine contractions. Pressure should not be exerted over areas with burns, infection, contagious diseases of the skin or active cancer.
Are there other therapies that might work well in conjunction with acupressure?
Many therapies work well with acupressure – in various forms it can be used as an effective adjunct to other kinds of manipulative therapy. Massage therapists often incorporate acupressure into their massage routines. By relaxing and toning muscles prior to adjustments, acupressure can make manipulation easier and more effective, allowing longer time between return visits. A good chiropractor or osteopath will often have a massage therapist doing these treatments prior to seeing them.
Martial arts exercises such as tai chi and qi gong may use acupressure points in their routines. Mind-body and breathing techniques are an integral part of achieving positive outcomes with acupressure.