The word "acupressure" sounds like it's related to the practice of acupuncture, but you might be surprised to learn that this natural therapy doesn't rely on the use needles. While acupressure treatment uses the same points on the body as acupuncture and shares some similar philosophies that come from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the practice involves manipulation of the patient using the hands.
Acupressure 101: The basics
Acupressure is a specific type of massage that relies primarily on using the thumbs, fingers and palms to apply pressure to various points on the body. Therapists may use various rhythms, pressures and techniques in the practice. Shiatsu massage is a style of acupressure therapy.
By applying pressure to specific points of the body, practitioners manipulate the flow of chi (qi) energy in the patient. Acupressure points — or acupoints — are locations on the body where chi may become congested or completely blocked. Acupressure massage is a natural holistic technique to address blockages that may be causing additional health problems.
Different types of points
When a therapist is using the acupressure massage technique, they target either local points or trigger points. What is the difference between these two types of points? Local points are the actual spots on the body where the patient is experiencing pain or discomfort. Trigger points are those that are connected to the points of the body experiencing pain or discomfort. These two types of points the practitioner multiple avenues from to approach a patient's problem, a benefit of the practice.
The points used in acupressure massage exist among a network or meridians, which are basically the highways on which chi flows throughout the body. Sometimes pressure is needed at these points to clear up blockages and help ensure a healthy, balanced and harmonious flow of energy through the meridians.
Commonly used points
The points and meridians constitutes an extensive network throughout the body. Therapists use their knowledge of this network to address specific disorders and diseases in patients. One point, for example, called the Gallbladder Channel (GB20, Fengchi) exists at the base of the skull where the neck joins the back. Applying pressure there can help with a variety of ailments, from the common cold to high blood pressure. The Kidney Channel (KI3, Taixi) sits just behind the inner ankle. It is used to treat issues ranging from asthma to lower back pain.
There are 14 main channels. Acupressure may be used alongside other styles of massage therapy or as a complement to another holistic treatment, such as chiropractic care.
The benefits of acupressure
Along with its ability to help treat variety of ailments, patients experience additional benefits of acupressure massage. It's a deeply relaxing experience and — like other types of massage — can help with:
- Relieving stress, tension and anxiety
- Improving sleep
- Relaxing muscles and joints
- Soothing the pain and discomfort of a sports or other injury
- Reducing digestive issues
- Minimizing headaches
- Alleviating chronic pain
The therapy stimulates the body's circulatory, lymphatic and hormonal systems. It also helps the function of the immune system and the body's natural ability to heal itself.
For more information about pursuing a career in massage therapy, call the admissions department at the Acupuncture & Massage College at (305) 595-9500.