Acupressure is a method of healing that is growing in popularity in Western cultures. You may have heard the term but be unfamiliar with the actual practice and how it could benefit you. Acupressure can be used to treat anything from stress and depression to pregnancy complications and even cancer. In truth, acupressure has as many critics as it does practitioners, but recent research is beginning to show it can be more effective in natural healing than Americans originally believed.
To help you understand acupressure and help dispel any misconceptions, we have looked deeper into the practice. In this article, we will help you understand acupressure’s origins and benefits. We will also discuss more of the specifics and how you can put them into practice to improve your overall health.
What is acupressure?
Acupressure is an ancient for of healing originally derived from traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM. The basic idea is to help the body heal itself through the flow of natural energy. It is similar in concept to acupuncture but is more practical in everyday usage. Acupressure is believed to have been developed over 3,000 years ago and has lasted the test of time in Eastern cultures.
The basic concept behind acupressure is based upon the idea of meridians. Meridians are pathways that exist throughout the body for the purpose of transmitting Qi, or vital energy. There are twelve total meridians in the body that travel through every extremity from the fingertips and toes to the brain.
Qi (pronounced ch’i) flows naturally throughout the body and consists entirely of your own body’s energy. When meridians are blocked, Qi is unable to flow properly, causing an imbalance that is the source of pain and disease. Still with me? Good.
Acupressure is the practice of massaging these meridians, thus allowing Qi to flow properly and help the body heal itself. It can be performed by a professional acupressure practitioner or even performed by oneself at home. In a professional setting, it is similar to a traditional massage. The patient lies flat on a massage board while the practitioner gently massages meridian points in circular motions.
When the natural energy flow of the body is restored, the body’s natural functions will increase in efficiency. This means faster healing from ailments as well as reducing fatigue and common problems. It is also believed that the energy in the meridians directly effects our moods and mental well-being. If positive energy is allowed to flow properly to the brain, it can reduce stress and even treat depression.
Obviously, many of these concepts are doubted by practitioners of traditional Western medicine. However, some aspects of acupressure treatment can be seen without understanding the Qi and meridians. Regular massage is undoubtedly helpful in reducing stress muscle tension. This can also explain why acupressure is so effective in treating pain. Particularly pain involved in arthritis can be significantly eased with regular acupressure massage. According to the experts at WebMD:
“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.”
While some may disagree on why acupressure works, it becoming more and more clear that it does. Regular practice of acupressure can be used to treat:
- Pain: Practitioners of acupressure believe that almost all forms of pain are caused by the inability of Qi to flow properly to the affected areas. This is not the same as just massaging the area that hurts. Every part of the body has a corresponding pressure point that may need to be unblocked to treat pain. For instance, a headache may not necessarily be treated by rubbing the temples. A common pressure point related to headaches is the He Gu. But we’ll get into that later.
- Appearance of wrinkles: There is a specific branch of acupressure called “cosmetic acupressure.” It is specifically designed as a beauty treatment and can be effective in reducing the appearance wrinkles. This form of the practice is thought to be more practical than others. It works by massaging certain areas of the face to relax the muscles and improve the blood flow in the area. This will improve the tone of these muscles help improve their overall functioning. Many people are now choosing this natural method as opposed to costly and possibly harmful cosmetic surgery.
- Stress/Mental health: Similarly to how acupressure treats physical pain, it can be just as useful in the treatment of emotional and mental pain. Since meridians travel to every part of the body, a blockage can significantly reduce energy flow to the brain. When this occurs, you can become fatigued, stressed, anxious or depressed. Through proper application of acupressure, the tension can be eased, thus allowing energy to flow properly and improve your overall mood.
- Libido: Low energy and blood flow can have a negative impact upon your sex life. Ancient Chinese Sexology is incorporated into modern acupressure to cultivate sexual energy. Stimulating certain pressure points can unlock a flow of energy that can significantly improve your sex drive. Understanding and practicing these techniques can have a big impact on your sexual chemistry and improve your love life.
- Healing: The overall concept of acupressure is to aid the natural energy flow in your body. When meridians become blocked, your body cannot heal itself properly. Anything from a paper cut to severe back pain can take much longer to heal than it naturally should. When these meridians are loosened, it will improve your body’s natural ability to heal.
- Other Ailments: Acupressure is used to treat an almost unlimited number of ailments. Anything from heart palpitations to cancer is said to be aided in the proper allowance of energy flow. While this may be the case, there is yet to be enough actual evidence or scientific research for us to feel we should go into them here. However, one great aspect of acupressure is its safety when compared to other treatments. While we don’t specifically endorse acupressure in the treatment of all ailments, it is safe enough for you to try on anything that is bothering you.
Meridians and Pressure Points
While there are believed to be twelve essential meridians in the body, there are almost countless pressure points. Pressure points are specific areas where meridians are commonly blocked. Gently massaging these pressure points will stimulate the energy and unblock the meridians to allow the body’s natural energy to flow as intended.
In order to use these pressure points, relax your body in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and firmly massage the area in slow motions for the amount of time indicated. You can repeat this as often as necessary.
- He Gu (Large Intestine 4)
- Used to treat facial pain, headaches, tooth pain, stress and neck pain
- Located on the highest part of the muscle when your index fingers and thumb are held together
- To use: Hold your thumb and index finger together loosely. Firmly massage the area in a circular motion for approximately four to five seconds.
- Feng Chi (Gallbladder 20)
- Used to treat migraines, fatigue, vision problems, stress and symptoms of cold or flu
- To locate, follow the ear bone down the groove to where your neck muscles attach to your skull
- To use: relax your neck and facial muscles as much as possible. Clasp your hands together with your fingers interlocked to form a cup shape. Use your thumbs to massage the area for approximately four to five seconds.
- This point can be difficult to locate at first, so it may be good to have someone help you the first time
- Tai chong (Liver 3)
- Used for lower back pain, menstrual cramps, pain in limbs, insomnia, stress and anxiety
- Located on the top of your foot. Start at the are in between your big toe and the next one over. Move down about an inch and a half from this point.
- While seated, relax both legs as much as possible. Using your index and middle fingers, gently massage the area in slow circles for approximately four to five seconds. Repeat as much as necessary.
- This pressure point is also said to be useful in the treatment of indigestion, canker sores and genital pain
- Sin Yin Jiao (Spleen 6)
- Used in the treatment of pelvic pain, urological problems, menstrual cramps, irritability and insomnia
- Located on the inside of the leg, approximately three inches above the ankle
- Find the pressure point by placing four fingers just above your ankle. Using all four fingers, gently massage the area in slow circles for approximately four to five seconds. Repeat as often as necessary.
- As is the case with many pressure points, Sin Yin Jiao should never be used during pregnancy. It could induce premature labor. If pregnant, always consult your physician before practicing acupressure.
This is just a brief introduction to the world of acupressure, and it is a vast world. Like most forms of traditional Chinese medicine, acupressure takes a holistic approach and incorporates many different disciplines. As is the case when trying any new form of treatment, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor first.