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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 sickness.

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 treatment approach.

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.


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