The search for and receptivity to alternative medicine and therapies has recently increased, with more people opting for an alternative to traditional medical treatment and medication.
Aside from meditation and yoga, two of the most popular choices of complementary therapies, acupressure is also slowly making a name. The acupressure treatment method is certainly worth considering.
What Is Acupressure?
Acupressure is an ancient technique used in traditional Chinese medicine, combining manual pressure to specific acupressure points with energy healing. The main objective of this ancient practice, like most Chinese medicine treatments, is to boost the movement of the “qi” (chi) or life energy to allow it to flow freely through the 14 meridians or energy channels of your body.
What Is The Theory Behind Acupressure?
The principle of Chinese medicine believes that your body’s qi should be in regular diurnal movement to maintain your overall health. Acupressure applies manual pressure to the acupressure points in your body to help address the possible blockages as well as the hyperactivity of energy at that point to keep your qi flowing steadily.
This complementary medicine form follows almost the same methodology as acupuncture treatment, but acupressure employs the fingertips to apply pressure instead of needles. When these pressure points are pressed, you may feel pressure, tightness, soreness, or even pain.
The effects of acupressure, regulating your energy channels and fields, include not only diminishing pain and other physical ailments, but also addressing your emotions, mind, and spirit.
The western world has gradually absorbed several versions of acupressure that originated in China. Tuina is the most popular type; Shen Tao applies only light pressure; and Anma, the Japanese version of acupressure, is more popularly called Shiatsu.
How Does Acupressure Work?
There is no definite answer to how acupressure works, but there are theories surrounding its efficacy as an alternative treatment for pain and other physical and mental conditions. Studies have shown that anatomically the acupressure points correspond to areas of rich neurovascular networks.
One of the more popular ideas is that the pressure being applied to your body’s pressure points leads to the release of endorphins, the natural pain-relieving chemicals released by your body.
Another winning concept is that the pressure applied during acupressure directly impacts your autonomic nervous system. This system controls and manages all involuntary actions that your body does, like breathing, digestion, and heart pumping. According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, your body is composed of invisible trails of energy known as meridians. Fourteen energy meridians flow in your body, all somewhat connected to your organs and other body parts.
Along these energy meridians are superficially-located acupressure points that connect the superficial energy pathways to the organs. If your qi is obstructed along any meridian, it won’t be able to flow, causing physical and mental health conditions. Alternatively, there are conditions that cause excessive flow requiring the energy to be dissipated in order for the energy flow to normalize.
These perturbations in the energy flow are resolved during an acupressure session, restoring the normal energy flow. Your symptoms help determine the pressure points. Nonetheless, due to the complexities of how meridians travel within your body, the pressure points that will be subjected to acupressure are not the same as the region where you are experiencing pain.
For instance, to relieve a headache, your practitioner will apply acupressure on a point on your foot or on your hand. With over 350 acupoints that can be manipulated to trigger release, your acupressure treatment will significantly involve identifying the correct pressure points. This is why it is important that you see a trained acupressurist who gets to know you as well as your symptoms to make the treatments most effective.
What Conditions Can Acupressure Resolve?
Johns Hopkins is in full support of acupressure and most people try acupressure as an alternative treatment for the following conditions:
- After effects of chemotherapy, including nausea and vomiting
- Low back pain
- Menstrual cramps
- Anxiety, stress, and depression
- Motion sickness
- Muscle tension and joint pain
- Pregnancy-related symptoms like morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting
In a study called Beyond Pills: Acupressure Impact on Self-Rated Pain and Anxiety Scores, participants underwent a 16-point stress release acupressure protocol and self-administered acupressure. The researchers conducted 2 Wilcoxon signed-rank tests to study the efficacy of acupressure on pain and anxiety.
In the written surveys post-treatment, 75% of the public participants reported a high level of satisfaction with the 30-minute treatment. In the anxiety scores post-treatment, subjects showed an overall two-point reduction in pain and a four-point decrease in anxiety scores.
What Does A (Typical) Acupressure Session Look Like?
An acupressurist is a person that conducts acupressure therapy. Before the session starts, you will have to share your indicators so they can apply the appropriate pressure points. This could be in the form of an interview and/or a symptom sheet. It is important that you do not eat 30 minutes before or exercise 1 hour before the treatment. Wear loose-fitting comfortable clothing and stay warm before, during, and after the treatment. Good hydration is also a must.
The therapist will ask you to sit or lie down on the massage table during the acupressure session. Acupressure practitioners will then use their hands, fingers and palms, elbows, to dissipate or hold your meridian acupressure points. Usually, the points are held for 1-3 minutes. It is best for you to breathe deeply into the points that are being manipulated. Acupressure is very relaxing for most people and many people will fall asleep during the treatment once their pain dissipates.
Although the primary goal of acupressure is to locate blockages, it may also include massages, stretching, and other physical activities. Several acupressure sessions are recommended for the best results.
Which Health Problems Benefit From Acupressure?
Acupressure For Pain
Since acupressure significantly involves applying pressure to your acupoints, this action can help relax your muscles. It helps relieve pain and can provide temporary relief from chronic pain and discomfort. It is also known to help with post-operative pain and anxiety in patients.
Does pressure relieve pain? Note that many times the points being pressed are not painful points but if done correctly, the underlying cause of the perpetual pain whether it is physical, emotional, or a combination of the two, will be addressed during the session. Because of the complex interplay between the multiple factors perpetuating the pain, usually, one acupressure session will not resolve the issues. The best approach is a program approach consisting of a series of acupressure sessions with instruction on daily self-acupressure for in-between sessions coupled with moving meditations such as Qi Gong to enhance the movement of qi through the body.
Acupressure is an effective treatment method that helps reduce your blood pressure, heart rate, and epinephrine while increasing your blood circulation, which is vital to minimize swelling and pain.
At the same time, the pressure can help alter how your brain processes the pain signal so it can manage it better while releasing adenosine, a chemical that relaxes your central nervous system.
Acupressure techniques can also trigger the release of cytokines, an anti-inflammatory agent that can help reduce any developing inflammation. Most importantly, it boosts your endorphin production, which plays a huge role in pain management and improving your pain threshold.
What pressure point relieves pain? Here are some examples of the pressure points for different pains.
Acupressure For Headache
Headache is a discomfort that can come, go, or linger. It can also be an aftermath of specific treatments like chemotherapy.
Some self-acupressure points for headaches are:
#1. The union valley point is found between your index finger and thumb.
#2. The gates of consciousness are at the base of your skull in the parallel hollow spaces between your two vertical neck muscles.
#3. The third eye meridian between your eyebrows.
Acupressure For Lower Back Pain
Pain in the lower back can be caused by an injury, accident, or old age. It can be mild to debilitating pain that can leave you unable to function. Apply pressure on the points listed below to experience a reduction in pain.
#1. The lower back meridians have multiple acupressure points on both sides of your lower back.
#2. The commanding middle point is behind the knee. Making a fist and pressing here for 30 seconds can relieve back pain associated with sciatica. Acupressure For Mental Health
If you are depressed, anxious, and stressed, you can also use acupressure to improve your mood and better manage your mental health.
How often should I do acupuncture for anxiety? Getting this treatment at least one to two times a week can be highly beneficial. Self-acupressure can be performed daily.
Everybody experiences anxiety at one point in their life or the other. The symptoms may include feelings of panic and fear, restlessness, fatigue, irritability, and long-lasting symptoms that can manifest physically.
How can I calm myself quickly? Usually, deep breathing and slowly counting from one to ten can help you calm down quickly, but, occasionally, other interventions are needed. The administration of stress release is essential so your mind can be free of the stifling negativity. There are many acupressure points that can be self-administered to achieve immediate calmness such as CV-17 right on your sternum.
Conventionally, treatment for anxiety includes psychotherapy and prescribed medications. Unconventional treatments like acupressure treatment can also be used. Acupressure has also helped patients experience less pain, depression, and reduction in anxiety after breast cancer treatment.
What are the 5 pressure points for anxiety? What can I massage if I have anxiety? Where is the acupressure point for anxiety?
If questions like these are plaguing you, read on.
These five acupressure points that can lower your anxiety level and ease your stress:
#1. The heavenly gate point is found in your ear’s upper shell, where you feel the tip of the triangle-like hollow.
#2. The hall of impression or third eye point is located between your eyebrows.
#3. The great surge point is located on your foot roughly two to three fingers-width below the crossing of your big and second toe.
#4. The Conception vessel-17 point. in the middle of your breastbone.
#5. The union valley point between your thumb and index finger.
Does acupressure cure anxiety?
Stress management, mindfulness to reduce anxiety, and other treatments can go side by side with acupressure for stress and anxiety. A lifelong mind-body practice can essentially cure anxiety depending on the underlying cause.
- Acupressure can help accomplish a decrease in anxiety scores.
Possible Side Effects And Risk Factors Of Acupressure
Are there any precautions with acupressure?
Acupressure is not a painful experience. If you feel pain during the session, let your acupressure therapist know. You must also let your therapist know if you are pregnant because certain meridians shouldn’t be touched. These areas include your lower back, abdomen, and certain spots on your hands and legs because tapping into these meridians can induce labor.
The effects of acupressure include slight soreness after the session, specifically on the acupressure points that were handled. Right after your session ends, you may feel lightheaded for a few minutes. When the acupressure points are located on sensitive areas like your face, the therapist applies a different kind of pressure. The therapist applies a gentle tapping pressure with the fingertips.
Additionally, acupressure is not advised when you are experiencing or have any of the following:
- Swollen and inflamed body parts
- Open wounds
- Varicose veins
You should also have the approval of your healthcare provider before trying acupressure if you have any of these conditions:
- Bleeding disorder
- Easy bruising
- Heart disease
- On medication of anticoagulant or antiplatelet
- A recent accident, injury, or fracture
- Uncontrolled blood pressure
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Common Acupuncture Points?
Some of the most common acupuncture meridians are:
- Large Intestine Channel LI-4 or Hegu on the back of your hand between your thumb and your first finger.
- Lung Channel LU-1 or Shangyangis found below the clavicles at the midpoint.
- Stomach Channel ST-36 or Zusanli is found on the front of your leg, just below your knee.
How Do I Know When To See A Doctor?
You should consult your doctor before, during, and after considering acupressure.
Your medical practitioner should be involved and aware that you are taking an alternative treatment. Remember that acupressure is not always a permanent resolution but can be a temporary, safe and additional option for you to find relief and improve your quality of life.
Acupressure is a practical and safe alternative to managing your level of pain and anxiety symptoms. Although evidence to support acupressure treatment can still be strengthened, there’s no harm in trying this traditional Chinese medicine and experiencing the possible positive effects of acupressure.
Any form of relief is welcome when you are in pain or when your anxiety is too high, and many have experienced the effectiveness of acupressure. Make sure you consult with your physician or therapist, especially if your symptoms are severe and are already negatively impacting your functioning and way of life. Also, find a certified professional so you achieve the highest benefit possible.