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Acupressure has clear roots in the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM. To properly define acupressure: acupressure is an “alternative-medicine practice in which pressure is applied to points on the body aligned along 12 main meridians (pathways), usually for a short time, to improve the flow of qi (life force).” Another acupressure meaning: a method of activating the body’s self-healing mechanisms to treat illness and alleviate pain. (1, 2)
Like reflexology, acupressure is based on the vital energy theory which says that stress impedes the flow of the “vital energy” that exists in each human body. Reflexology mainly focuses on the feet and hands while acupressure is practiced all over the body. Acupressure, acupuncture and reflexology are all methods that are believed to help optimize that flow of energy in our bodies.
You can perform self-acupressure or you can seek acupressure therapy from a certified specialist. Self-acupressure is great because the majority of acupressure points can be reached, but if someone else does it then all points can be reached plus you benefit from their expertise including what points help what and appropriate pressure timing and intensity.
What is acupressure massage?
It’s a form of massage where pressure is intentionally applied to specific points of the body. This pressure points massage is also referred to as a shiatsu massage. Shiatsu originates in Japan, and the goal of shiatsu is to remove blockages in the body by realigning meridian points, which in turn is supposed to help balance energy in the body helping it feel better in both a physical and mental sense.
Some shiatsu practitioners put more of an emphasis on the body’s meridian lines than on pressure points. In addition to their fingers, shiatsu experts are likely to use their knuckles, elbows, fists and even feet to apply pressure.
Use in Ayurveda:
In addition to having a long history in Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupressure is also utilized in Ayurvedic Medicine. Ayurvedic acupressure is also called Marma therapy and it can be defined as an ancient Indian practice that uses the manipulation of subtle energy (prana) in the body with the intention of supporting the body’s healing process. Prana in ayurveda is like qi or chi in TCM. Marma therapy uses 107 acupressure points, which are believed to be access points to the entire body as well as the mind and consciousness.
What is an acupressure point?
An acupressure point, often called a pressure point, can be defined as a point on the body to which pressure is applied (as in acupressure or reflexology) for therapeutic purposes. (4)
What is an acupressure chart?
An acupressure chart is basically a pressure points chart. It shows all of the many locations all over the body that are considered acupressure points that can be pressed for various health concerns. An acupressure chart also typically shows the 12 main meridians of the body. What is a meridian? It’s an “energy highway” in the human body through which energy or qui flows. These are channels within the body that correspond to major organ systems such as the heart, kidney and liver. Each meridian has various acupressure and acupuncture points along its path. (5)
There are six leg meridians including the gall bladder (GB), urinary bladder (B), kidney (K), liver (Lv), stomach (S) and the spleen/pancreas (Sp). The six arm meridians are the large intestine (LI), small intestine (SI), heart (H), pericardium (Pc), triple warmer (TW) and lung (L). When you see an acupressure point start out with one of these letters, it’s referencing which meridian it’s located on. Pressing just one acupressure point can help to relieve a specific symptom or health condition. It’s also common in acupressure to work a series of pressure points for one concern or just to promote overall well-being.
Differences between acupressure and acupuncture:
Acupressure vs acupuncture, what are the differences? Acupressure points and acupuncture points are the same. Both methods use the same meridian lines, too. The biggest difference is that acupuncture stimulates the points with needles while acupressure applies bodily (mainly finger) pressure to the points. This pressure can range from gentle to firm. Both disciplines aim to optimize energy flow in the body through the release of tension/blockages. (6)
Does self-acupressure work? I can say from my own personal experience that self-acupressure absolutely can work wonders. Of course, not all acupressure points are possible to manipulate on your own, but so many are in reach such as your hand pressure points. It’s actually pretty amazing to see just how many points are located on your hands alone!
The great thing about self-acupressure is that many points can be stimulated while you go about your daily life. While waiting in line at the grocery store, you can even apply pressure to one of the many acupressure points on your hand and it’s likely that no one will even notice.