What is Acupressure?
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Acupressure is the application of pressure to acupoints with fingers,
palms, elbows, knees, feet or non-puncturing instruments in order to
promote a healing response. Acupressure predates acupuncture as a treatment
modality. The earliest acupuncture needles were made of stone, and were
not used to pierce the skin, but rather to press acupoints.
Two simple acupressure techniques that anyone can use are pressing the
acupoint hegu (Large Intestine #4) to relieve a headache, and
wearing an acupressure wristband, to apply continuous pressure to the
acupoint neiguan (Pericardium #6) for relief of morning or motion
There are simplified acupressure books that illustrate acupoints to
press for different ailments. (For example, ten acupoints to press for
headaches.) This unsophisticated cookbook approach to acupressure does
not deal with the underlying blockage or imbalance that predisposes an
individual to certain ailments.
Advanced practitioners perform acupressure in a highly sophisticated
and individualized manner, based on a thorough understanding of Eastern
Medicine theory, and expert diagnosis of the underlying imbalances in
the organs and meridians. I use the same diagnostic procedures for both
my acupuncture and acupressure patients. The diagnosis determines my
For example, Patient A and Patient B both suffer migraine headaches.
Patient A is a young female smoker who has insomnia and menstrual problems.
During diagnosis I determine that she has deficient lung and kidney yinand ascending
liver yang. . During the treatment session, I first tonify specific acupoints
on the lung and kidney meridians, and then disperse other acupoints on
the liver and gallbladder meridians.
Patient B is a middle-aged male, who also has cervical and low back
pain because of unresolved injuries from previous whiplash incidents.
While palpating diagnostic points on Patient B’s abdomen, I discover
a blockage in the extraordinary meridian called dai mai (or “girdle
vessel”). During the treatment session, I balance acupoints on
the dai mai and yang wei mai meridians.
Acupressure alleviates the migraine headaches of both Patient A and
Patient B, as well as some of their secondary complaints, even though
the acupoints I treated on each patient were different. This is because
the root cause of Patient A and Patient B’s symptoms was different.
When an acupoint is pressed, the energy flowing in the meridian below
is attracted to the surface. Generally, acupoints are held until a pulsation
is felt under the practitioner’s finger. The pulsation confirms
that qi and blood are flowing freely. Acupressurists typically move one
hand along a series of acupoints, waiting for the pulsation to arrive.
The other hand is held still on a point selected for its ability to assist
the other points in releasing.
By holding, pressing or massaging acupoints in a specific sequence,
qi and blood can be increased or tonified where they are lacking and
decreased or dispersed where they are overabundant. Because the acupressurist’s
hands are in constant contact with the acupoints, changes in the flow
of qi can be immediately detected, and treatment strategy can be modified
to accommodate the body’s response.
There are various styles, methods and schools of acupressure. Those that
originated in China are called tuina. Those that were developed in Japan
are called shiatsu.