Acupressure is an ancient form of massage that is one of the treatment methods used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The goal of acupressure (as well as other Chinese Medicine treatments), is to encourage the movement of qi ("life energy") through the 14 channels (meridians) inside the body. These are the same energy meridians and acupoints as those targeted with acupuncture. Chinese Medicine theory states that the constant flow of qi through these channels is essential for a person to keep their health. If this energy flow is blocked, the body can no longer maintain the balance that is needed to maintain high energy and deal with health issues.
Acupressure consists of pressing the acupuncture points in an attempt to help the free flow of energy in the channel(s). Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but the person uses their fingers instead of needles to work the point. During a treatment or self treatment, a person will experience a slight pain when the proper acupuncture point is pressed.
Tuina is the most popular form of acupressure performed in China and is part of the training of most acupuncturists trained in the United States. Other forms are shen tao, which uses very light pressure applied only with the fingertips, and a Japanese form, anma, which has developed into a popular form now recognised as shiatsu.
Benefits of Acupressure
Acupressure can be very effective in helping with nausea and vomiting after surgery or invasive medical procedures. Acupressure can also help in reducing the pain.
There has not been a lot of research done to document the benefits of acupressure, although there has been some. According to the National Cancer Institute, several small studies have shown that acupressure has helped cancer patients by reducing cancer-related fatigue and nausea. Many patients report acupressure has also helped with pain, stress and anxiety but there has not been research done specifically with cancer patients documenting these results.
Acupressure should not be used as the only treatment for serious illness or chronic condition, but in addition to treatment by a licensed physician.
At-home (or DIY) solutions
Acupressure mats have become the go-to product to use as a self-directed treatment as an alternative to acupressure performed by a professional. The mats have become a well-regarded option for ongoing acupressure stimulation and works best in conjunction with professional massage therapy services.
How to choose a acupressure practitioner
Acupressure can be used by a massage therapist or an acupuncturist, or a person can treat themselves (the mat is best for DIY). The G-Jo Institute offers several books on acupressure that can be found online or in book stores.
The Australian Association of Massage Therapists offers a directory of massage therapists nationwide, many of whom have been trained in acupressure.