Acupressure is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice that involves using hands, fingers and other tools to stimulate specific parts of the body called acupoints. Used for thousands of years in China, this healing practice helps balance the flow of life energy or qi throughout the body’s energy meridians.

Applying manual pressure to acupoints unleashes blocked energy and helps the body begin the healing process. This aids in the treatment of various health issues, from muscle pain and headaches to motion sickness and anxiety.

Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, only that it uses pressure from the hands and fingers instead of needles. It is why it is sometimes known as “pressure acupuncture” or “acupuncture without needles.”

Read on for an in-depth look at acupressure, how it works, its many benefits, and the potential risks involved.

 

What Health Conditions Can Acupressure Help With?

Here are some of the health issues that acupressure can ease:

  •       Anxiety
  •       Back pain
  •       Brain fog
  •       Congestion
  •       Constipation
  •       Depression
  •       Diarrhea
  •       Ear pain
  •       Eye problems
  •       Fatigue
  •       Gas and bloating
  •       Headaches and migraines
  •       Hip pain
  •       Immune system deficiencies
  •       Insomnia
  •       Menstrual cramps
  •       Motion sickness
  •       Muscle pain and tension
  •       Nausea and vomiting, especially after surgery or chemotherapy
  •       Neck pain
  •       Sciatica
  •       Shoulder and arm pain
  •       Sinus problems
  •       Spasms
  •       Stress

Acupressure is designed to promote relaxation and wellness, regulate the opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy), and treat certain illnesses.

Some proponents of this practice claim that it heals the body and its energy fields along with the mind, emotions, and spirit. Some say that acupressure practitioners can transmit vital energy to another person.

 

How Acupressure Works

Acupressure works by applying manual pressure on specific acupoints to release blocked energy and restore health and balance to the body’s energy channels. Acupressure practitioners use their palms, fingers, elbows, feet, or special tools to put pressure on acupoints.

This healing practice also involves stretching or acupressure massage, along with other methods and techniques. 

There are 365 acupoints located on the major channels and more than 650 individual pressure points. Each channel has a complex system of connections similar to the network of vessels in the body’s circulatory system.

Acupressure is designed to release qi in these channels through tonification, dispersal, and calm. Weak qi needs tonifying, whereas blocked qi requires dispersal, and overactive qi must be calmed.

In an acupressure session, you will lay fully clothed on a soft massage table. The acupressure practitioner or therapist will gently press on the relevant acupoints and hold pressure for several seconds or minutes. The pressure may be applied in circular motions, pushing the acupoint in and out or combining both.

The acupoints may become sensitive during the session, but they should not be painful or uncomfortable.

An acupressure session usually lasts about an hour. Depending on the health condition being treated, you may need several sessions to achieve the best results. You can go in for sessions every other day or a few times daily.

 

How Acupressure Works To Relieve Pain

Acupressure is a great way to treat most types of body pain. It relieves aches, pains, and tension by promoting cellular death and increasing oxygen flow in the blood.

When pressure is placed directly on a trigger point or acupoint, it restricts blood in the cells, which leads to cellular death. When the brain registers cellular death, it sends signals toward the stimulated. And when the pressure is released, it generates an inflammatory response and a resurgence of new blood to repair the cells.

This activation of specific points on the body’s energy meridians works to reduce pain[1] at the site and other parts of the body.

Various studies[2] have shown that acupressure effectively relieves different kinds of pain. These studies encourage mainstream or conventional health care providers to incorporate acupressure into their practices as an alternative therapy.

If you’re looking for a simple way to use acupressure for pain relief, here is a pressure point that you can access:

Pressure Point LI-4 (Hegu)

Pressure point LI-4, also known as Hegu, is situated between the base of the thumb and the index finger. Pressing it using acupressure techniques helps relieve pain and headaches.

Here is what you should do:

  •       Locate pressure point LI-4 by placing your thumb in the space between the base of your thumb and your index finger.
  •       Press gently yet firmly on this point for about 5 minutes. Move your thumb in a circular motion while putting pressure. Make sure that you do not press so hard that the area hurts.
  •       Repeat this process on your other hand.

You can try this acupressure technique as often as you need to ease the pain.

 

Can You Lose Weight With Acupressure?

Acupressure is also a popular technique for weight loss, as it effectively reduces stress, boosts digestion, and improves metabolism, all of which are crucial for weight management.

Some acupressure points are believed to control appetite and blood sugar levels.

Research on the correlation between acupressure and weight loss is fairly limited. But in a 2019 systematic review[3], seven studies were conducted to understand the potential impact of auricular acupressure (acupoints of the ear) on weight loss results.

The researchers discovered that auricular acupressure effectively reduced overall body weight (BW) and body mass index (BMI) in study participants. Whether the acupressure was done alone or with traditional weight loss approaches such as diet and exercise, these outcomes remained consistent.

The authors also found that a more extended acupressure treatment period had a more significant impact on reducing BW and BMI.

This is the acupoint you can press for weight reduction:

Sanyinjiao (SP6)

Sanyin jiao is an acupressure point located along the spleen meridian. It is thought to influence the lower abdomen and the parasympathetic nervous system.

 To massage this point, follow the steps below:

  •       Locate the point roughly three inches above the inner ankle bone.
  •       Place one or two fingers on the sanyinjiao point.
  •       Put gentle but firm pressure using your fingers.
  •       Massage in a circular motion for a couple of minutes.
  •       Repeat on the other side.

 

What Are The Risks Of Acupressure?

Acupressure is a holistic healing practice that can be used by people of all ages and genders. It does not have any profound health implications.

However, those suffering from high blood pressure and also pregnant women must refrain from acupressure therapy. Pressing on specific acupoints may lead to miscarriage. During pregnancy, acupressure should not be done on the abdomen, lower back, and certain acupoints on the leg.

Moreover, you must not use acupressure to treat open wounds, bruises, scar tissue, varicose veins, and swollen or inflamed areas.

Acupressure should never feel painful. Tell your therapist immediately if you feel any pain during an acupressure session.

Some people may feel soreness or become bruised at certain acupressure points after a session. They may also feel lightheaded for some time, but it should pass quickly.

 

Who Should Not Get Acupressure?

Certain groups of people are generally dissuaded from acupressure therapy. Individuals with these conditions must talk to their healthcare provider before trying it:

  •       Bleeding disorder
  •       Cancer
  •       Diabetes
  •       Easily bruised
  •       Heart disease
  •       High blood pressure
  •       On prescription anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications
  •       Open wounds, bruises, varicose veins, swollen areas, or inflammation
  •       Osteoporosis
  •       Pregnant women
  •       Recent fracture or injury

 

Conclusion

Acupressure is an ancient healing practice that is used to treat many different health conditions, including pain, anxiety, fatigue, and even obesity.

If you fall under the at-risk category, talk to your healthcare provider before starting acupressure therapy.

 

References

 

Citations

  1. Piyush Mehta, Vishwas Dhapte, Shivajirao Kadam, and Vividha Dhapte, 2017, Contemporary acupressure therapy: Adroit cure for painless recovery of therapeutic ailments. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5388088/ 

  1. Ya-Wen Chen and Hsiu-Hung Wang, 2014, The effectiveness of acupressure on relieving pain: a systematic review. Pain Management Nursing

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23415783/

  1. Ching-Feng Huang, MS, Su-Er Guo, Ph.D., and Fan-Hao Chou, Ph.D., 2019, Auricular acupressure for overweight and obese individuals. Medicine (Baltimore)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6617497/