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Acupressure is one of the techniques of ancient Chinese medicine that combines mental relaxation with the relief of muscular tension. Acupressure consists of applying pressure with the fingers on points and meridians located throughout the body that offer benefits that we will detail below. Find out everything you need to know about this holistic technique.

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History of acupressure

Where did acupressure originate and who invented it?

Believe it or not, acupressure is almost as old as Chinese culture itself. The earliest records date back to 2600 BC. Apparently the original texts describing this technique were hidden until the 17th century, when Western healers experienced the benefits of touching certain body points and began to spread its benefits around the world.

There is certainly no inventor of acupressure, but since the spread of acupressure around the world there have been great experts who have perfected the technique and added additional areas to those that were known thousands of years ago.

It is important to clarify that acupressure was part of another group of traditional Chinese treatments against ailments such as generalised pain, stress, nausea and illnesses resulting from the energy accumulated in the human muscular system. So acupressure did not start out as an isolated and unique method, but rather as an offshoot of a cluster of other forms of healing.

Because of its oriental origin, all known points within it are in the Mandarin language, it has been the tradition of physiotherapists not to translate the names in an attempt to preserve the essence of the technique.

Is acupressure massage scientifically proven?

Although traditional Chinese medicine, which encompasses acupressure and acupuncture, is older than modern medicine, the latter does not accept the philosophical basis of touching strategic body points to achieve healing.

There are millions of testimonials from all over the world that speak of multiple improvements after attending sessions of this type of therapy. However, in several countries, there are registered specialists who support these traditional techniques. These specialists are certified to apply both acupressure and acupuncture, which are sister modalities.

In short, modern science has not taken the trouble to record and endorse the actual benefits of both therapies. But this has not prevented more and more people from joining as practitioners and trainers of this therapy considered alternative by official bodies.

Does acupressure really work?

Yes, acupressure has achieved significant improvements in patients who have not had favourable results with modern Western medicine. In the words of specialists, this healing method replaces modern treatments using drugs and surgical interventions.

More and more specialists in traumatology, endocrinology and psychology are joining the use of acupressure as an alternative and complementary form of holistic treatment in order to achieve a definitive solution to people's health problems.

Nearly 50% of the world's population is familiar with various traditional Chinese techniques, including acupressure. Half of this population attends sessions to reduce the side effects of modern conventional treatments, also as a complete replacement for drugs and as a form of effective health-promoting prevention.

What is acupressure therapy and what is it used for?

What is it?

Acupressure is the channelling of accumulated energy into specific areas of the body. By applying pressure to trigger points, associated points and meridians, this energy is released and muscle tension is relieved. It is a holistic method, so there are no magic formulas to find relief, everything will depend on the patient's predisposition and the therapist's knowledge.

We told you earlier that this therapy is the sister of acupuncture, both share the same philosophical principles and knowledge about how to achieve a greater production of endorphins in the body to obtain physical, psychological and spiritual benefits.

Unlike acupuncture, acupressure does not use needles. All that is needed is strength and skill in the hands, and knowing where and when to apply pressure, based on the initial needs of the patient.

What is it for?

The ultimate goal of acupressure is to achieve concrete improvements for the patient. Sometimes this is achieved in a single session, but it often takes several sessions before significant changes are noticed.

It regulates basic bodily functions such as digestion, blood circulation, sleep levels, energy flow, metabolism and the mood of people who see acupuncturists. It is also useful for relieving pain in the muscles called trigger points, but should only be used for general ailments and not when there are physical injuries.

How is it applied?

A good therapist must take into account some fundamental aspects in order for it to work: the first thing is to know beforehand what the patient's needs are in order to know which points are going to be touched. Before starting to exert pressure, a light touch should be done first to measure the sensitivity of the person, we do not want the session to be uncomfortable instead of pleasurable.

In a single session, fingers, knuckles, palms and even just the thumbs can be used, depending on the location of the point to be worked on. The movements can be circular and light or with friction and strong pressure.

A vital aspect to bear in mind is that the same pressure must be maintained on both sides of the selected area. An example of this is the points on the soles of the feet, if the thumbs are touched with force, the index fingers should offer the same pressure, thus maintaining an energetic balance.

And although the hands are often used, there are specific products such as the ones you will see in this list:

  • Acupressure mat + cushion: These are perfectly sized to treat large areas such as the back or legs. It has thousands of pressure points and has a small pillow to support the neck.
  • Individual acupressure cushion: Although it comes with the mat, it can also be purchased separately. The entire head and neck rests on it, so the hundreds of points available do their job.
  • Acupressure hand and foot massager kit: This is a complete kit to work on hand and foot ailments in every session. It comes with a foot roller, two spiked massage balls, a hard Lacrosse ball and a double Lacrosse ball.
  • Manual foot massager with roller: This is the perfect size for treating the soles of the feet. Although they are specially designed to be applied to the feet, they are also used on the hands. It relieves the feeling of tightness and cramps in the limbs.
  • Lacrosse myofascial massage balls: These come in different sizes, weights and textures. Each one is adjusted to the sensory capacity. They can be single balls, double balls and soft balls. Most come with a handy bag. And most importantly, you'll get an instruction manual.
  • Hook massager or manual back massager: These hooks are curved and long, and have additional points and extensions to cover more areas at once. In a single session, points on the neck, back and shoulders are stimulated.

Most important acupressure points

Generally speaking, if you want to achieve a deep state of relaxation, then the action points are in the upper body, such as the head, neck area and limbs. However, here are some other acupressure points you should know about.

Points on the head and neck

  • LI-4 (Hegu)
  • Du23 Shangxing
  • Vb14 Yangbai
  • Ren24 Chengjiang
  • Ig17 Tianding

Points on arms and hands

  • Pc2 Tianquan
  • P4 Xiabai
  • Pc3 Quze
  • P6 Kongzui
  • Pc7 Daling

Points on the body trunk

  • R27 Shufu
  • E14 Kufang
  • Ren20 Huagai
  • E17 Ruzhong
  • B14 Fujie

Points on the legs

  • H9 Yinbao
  • E36 Zusanli
  • E40 Fenglong
  • H5 Ligou
  • E31 Biguan

Points on the feet

  • E42 Chongyang
  • E43 Xiangu
  • H1 Dadun
  • B3 Taibai
  • B4 Gongsun

Health benefits of acupressure massage

If you have any hesitation to start enjoying acupressure sessions, then you should check out this list of the best benefits this traditional Chinese technique has for you.

  • Facilitates sleep and rest: Stress and anxiety cause insomnia in people. Acupressure drains accumulated energy and allows for better sleep and restful nights.
  • Headache and migraine relief : Acupressure is better for migraines than muscle relaxation massages. This technique helps to calm thoughts and helps people find more solutions to their problems.
  • Toothache relief: It is vital to clarify that acupressure does not eliminate the original tooth problem, it only relieves the pain while the person goes to a dentist to treat the damage. There are points on the jaw that fulfil this function.
  • For nausea and vomiting: Although these are ailments that originate in the head and stomach, relief is achieved when various points on the hands and wrists are touched. This should be done with the thumbs. The favourable reaction is immediate.
  • For constipation: The points on the abdomen will help to move the bowels until the accumulated stool finds its way out. Constipation is associated with stomach pain.
  • To induce labour: There is not enough evidence linking acupressure directly to childbirth, only that it improves circulation and prevents fluid retention. There are specific points that should not be touched in pregnancy.
  • Reduces anxiety: Stress, anxiety, fears and phobias are human characteristics that are regulated by touching seven main points on the head. Several sessions are required for a visible effect.
  • Improves digestion: For better digestion, the points on the belly should be touched strongly and light strokes on the back at the level of the intestines should be generated. From the first session there are positive changes.
  • Improves blood pressure: Hypertension is a condition that can be regulated with acupressure. It requires at least 8 weeks of sessions, each lasting 20 minutes. Various parts of the body are touched to regulate blood pressure.
  • Helps reduce depression: Emotions such as depression activate areas in the brain that can be regulated with gentle finger touches. The change in attitude will be seen with consistent sessions.
  • For heartburn: When heartburn is mild, where there is no reflux, it can be controlled by touching points on the chest and at the level of the diaphragm. If the sensation persists, do not hesitate to see a specialist.
  • For plantar fasciitis: Fascia is a tissue that is all over the body, so the benefit of acupressure is total, not just on the sole of the foot. Although with acupressure mats you can stimulate just the foot for a quick result.
  • For the sciatic nerve: The points that control this ailment are on the back. Care should be taken with them because pressure on the nerves can cause pain. The nerves are very sensitive to pressure generated by hands, and needles in the case of acupuncture.
  • Muscle decontractor: By touching trigger points, you modulate the tension and irregular bunching of muscle fibres. You can improve whole muscle groups at once or a single muscle individually.
  • Relieves muscle tension: In this holistic technique, tension is an accumulation of energy and the strength of the hands is used to make it flow better through the body. The less energy accumulated, the less tension and associated pain.
  • Muscle contractures: Acupressure will help you to regulate muscle contractures and cramps. You can use this technique as a preventive measure if you play sports.
  • Sports injuries: They are mainly used on the lower limbs, so in sports such as football or basketball the touch of these points leaves great benefits in chronic and mild injuries that have to do with inflammation, moderate pain and muscle exhaustion.
  • Improved sporting performance: Like acupuncture, this modality allows the muscles to be prepared for the high demands of sport. It serves to warm up and cool down the body.

F.A.Q: Frequently Asked Questions

Are acupressure and Shiatsu massage the same?

  • Acupressure is any technique in which the fingers of the hands are applied to allow the flow of energy in the body.
  • Shiatsu massage is applied with the fingers, but it is not just one-off touches. The hands are used to rub, touch and activate particular areas of the musculature. Its origin is Japanese, but nowadays it has assimilated principles from traditional Chinese medicine.

Are acupressure, acupuncture and dry needling the same?

Acupressure and acupuncture are sister techniques. They have the same origin and are based on the same philosophical principles. The only real difference is that acupressure uses hands, fingers and knuckles; acupuncture uses needles.

Dry needling uses a single fine needle to stimulate muscles one at a time. This function is best recognised in modern medicine because it relieves myofascial pain. It seeks an intense physiological response to reduce muscle pain and soreness.

Is acupressure therapy safe?

Yes, more and more medical specialists are calling for the use of alternative therapies such as acupressure to achieve results that conventional Western medicine does not offer patients. There are millions of people around the world who claim to feel improvements to ailments such as stress and migraine, which drugs do not solve.

What are the risks and contraindications of acupressure massage?

In reality, there is no evidence that excessive therapies are counterproductive to people's health. It should only be noted that there are points that should not be touched in pregnant women.

In addition, in cases of serious injuries such as sprains, dislocations and fractures, the points in the affected areas should not be touched. Allow a medical specialist to make a full assessment of the injury.

Is it normal for pressure points to hurt during an acupressure massage?

No. Acupressure is intended to relieve pain, not to amplify it. In case you experience severe pain while activating these points, the technique should be stopped immediately. Remember that it should only be used for minor injuries. In chronic injuries, its use should be suggested by a specialist.

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