Acupressure is derived from a Latin word acus: ‘needle’ and pressure. It is an alternative medicine technique similar in principle to acupuncture. It is based on the concept of life energy which flows through “meridians” in the body. In treatment, physical pressure is applied to points with the aim of clearing blockages in these meridians. Pressure may be applied by hand, by the elbow, or with various devices. The points are commonly called “acupuncture points,” “pressure points,” “acupoints” or “acupressure points.”
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. Acupressure, like acupuncture, is a modality of treatment in TCM. It is part of an overall system of preventive medicine and health maintenance that includes herbal remedies, dietary recommendations, regular therapeutic exercise, and the practice of martial arts as well as bodywork. Like acupuncture, acupressure in TCM is based on a prescientific theory of energy flow within the body. According to some historians, acupressure in China is thought to have been practiced even earlier than acupuncture and may date as far back as 2000 B.C.
Types of acupressure
In the United States and Canada, the term “acupressure” was not regulated as of early 2008. At that time, several different forms of bodywork described themselves as acupressure or as using acupressure.
Basic Acupressure: The basic technique used in Western versions of acupressure is pressure applied by the human finger or hand in order to relieve stress or tension and enable the body to relax. Individuals can perform basic acupressure on their bodies after they gain some instruction from a practitioner or handbook.
There are four techniques used in basic acupressure:
Firm pressure- The thumbs, fingers, knuckles, or side of the hand are used to apply steady stationary pressure to relax a part of the body or relieve pain. One or two minutes of pressure applied gradually is said to relax and calm the nervous system and promote healing in the affected part. If the area requires stimulation rather than relaxation, firm pressure is applied for only 4–5 seconds. A person performing self-acupressure is generally advised to use the middle finger, as it is the longest, and to apply pressure at a 90-degree angle to the skin.
Slow-motion kneading- The practitioner uses the heels of the hands as well as the thumbs and fingers to knead or squeeze large muscle groups. This technique is used to relieve constipation as well as leg cramps or tension in the neck and shoulders.
Light brisk rubbing- This technique is used to improve blood circulation in the skin or to relieve chills.
Quick tapping- The practitioner uses fingertips on the face or a loose fist on larger areas of the body to improve muscle tone and nerve function.
Individuals performing self-acupressure are advised not to work on any single area of the body for longer than 15 minutes or extend the entire session beyond an hour. They should also wear loose, comfortable clothing and wait for at least an hour after a meal before performing self-acupressure.
Shiatsu: Shiatsu is a Japanese form of acupressure whose name comes from the Japanese words for “finger” and “pressure.” In addition to putting pressure on acupoints, the shiatsu practitioner may use palm pressure, stretching, kneading, or other manipulative techniques. The most distinctive aspect of shiatsu is the intensive use of the practitioner's thumbs during the treatment. Shiatsu practitioners in Japan are licensed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and are officially known as ‘shiatsupractors’. In the West, shiatsu is used most often to treat musculoskeletal disorders or such psychological problems as depression and anxiety.
Shiatsu is an evolving form of acupressure that combines some of the practices of Chinese tui na massage with Western medical knowledge. The name shiatsu was first used in a book published in 1915 by the healer Tenpaku Tamai. Shiatsu was systematized in the 1940s and 1950s by Tokujiro Namikoshi (1905–2000), who combined the massage techniques of anma (the Japanese name for tui na) with a Western understanding of human anatomy and physiology.
Shiatsu became popular in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, when Namikoshi treated several American celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali.
Tui Na Massage: Tui na (sometimes spelled tuina) massage, is part of the curriculum in Chinese medical schools. Its name can be loosely translated as “push-grasp” or “pokepinch.” Tui na is thought to be about 2,000 years old and to have started as a form of manipulation used to reset dislocated bones. As practiced in the early 2000s, it involves vigorous deep-tissue work as well as lighter stroking or touching, as it is intended to improve the body's structural realignment as well as relieve stress. Practitioners may use any part of the hand, the palms, or knuckles as well as the fingers. They may also use herbal packs or compresses to warm the client's skin.
A tui na treatment may last anywhere from 10 minutes to more than an hour. The client wears loose clothing and lies on a massage table or pad on the floor. The practitioner begins with some questions about the client's basic health and specific problems. The practitioner then concentrates on the area around the affected part(s) of the body, concentrating on the acupoints located in those areas. The client's clothing may be repositioned to expose an area that requires direct contact, but the practitioner is expected to inform the client before adjusting the clothing.
Reflexology: Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is a form of acupressure in which pressure is applied to the sole of the client's foot by the practitioner's hands or by tongue depressors, rubber balls, or sticks of wood. Practitioners of reflexology generally base their technique on the TCM theory of chi and the meridians or energy channels in the body. The chief theoretical difference is that reflexologists believe that the foot can be mapped into zones corresponding to the various parts of the body, the right foot governing organs on the right side of the body, and the left foot governing those on the left. Modern reflexology began with the American doctor William Fitzgerald (1872–1942), who divided the foot into 10 zones and named his technique zone therapy. It was renamed reflexology by Eunice Ingham (1899–1974), a nurse and physical therapist, who mapped the entire body into so-called reflexes on the feet.
A typical reflexology treatment in the early 2000s lasts between 30 and 60 minutes, with sessions spaced over four to eight weeks. The client remains fully clothed while the practitioner massages the feet and then applies firmer pressure to the areas of the feet corresponding to the parts of the body that are tense or painful. The reflexologist may use lotions, oils, or aromatherapy products as part of the treatment.
Tapas acupressure technique (TAT): Tapas acupressure technique (TAT) is a controversial technique that was invented in 1993 by a licensed acupuncturist named Tapas Fleming. TAT is based on the basic TCM theory of ill health due to energy blockages in the body, although it also claims to release stress inherited from one's ancestors as well as stress resulting from physical disorders or emotional trauma in the client's own life. Practitioners of TAT claim that by applying light pressure to four areas (the inner corner of each eye; a spot one-half-inch above the space between the eyebrows; and the back of the head) while sitting in a recommended pose “clears” the blockage of chi caused by past trauma and allows healing. Like some other forms of acupressure, TAT can be self-administered.
Apart from one study published in 2007 that indicates TAT may be of some benefit in weight loss, no research has been done on its effectiveness in treating disorders that commonly affect seniors.
Hybrid Forms of Acupressure: Some forms of self-administered acupressure consist of combining pressure on acupoints with bending or stretching exercises or yoga poses. Acu-yoga is a discipline in which the practitioner chooses certain yoga postures that will place pressure on the acupoints that affect his or her specific health concern. For example, someone suffering from eye strain may wish to use a yoga position that puts pressure on the liver meridian, which governs the eyes, according to TCM. Developed by Michael Gach, an American who has written several books on acupressure, acu-yoga is intended to increase awareness and inner calm as well as relieve physical stress and tension.
Magnet Therapy: When acupoints are used with Magnets, it is called as ‘Magnet therapy’. In Magnet therapy, very small magnets are placed on acupoints which help in restoring the bioenergetic balance. They are sometimes attached by placing them underneath an elastic bandage or taping them into position using medical tape made of a comfortable fabric.
As a result of such effects, magnet therapy can function as an antibiotic, eliminating many microbes, viruses, bacteria, and fungi, including strains that may be resistant to pharmaceutical antibiotics or other drugs.
Recently, it has also been discovered that the cells of the brain themselves contain a substance called magnetite. Magnetite is a naturally occurring crystalline material with weak magnetic properties, and which receives its charge from the Earth’s magnetic field. As a result of these mechanics, applying a therapeutic magnet to the head stimulates the production of the hormone melatonin, thereby improving the quality of sleep, balancing the person’s sleep cycle, and otherwise facilitating relaxation and altered states of consciousness.
Uses of Acupressure
The Applications of Using Acupressure include relieving pain, balancing body energy, and maintaining good health.
Acupressure’s healing touch reduces muscular tension, increases circulation, and enables deep relaxation.