Acupressure is a type of massage therapy in which manual pressure is applied to specific points on the body. Acupressure is a practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that is similar to acupuncture, except that it uses fingertip pressure instead of needles.
Acupressure is said to help with a range of conditions, from motion sickness to headache to muscle pain. TCM practitioners say acupressure benefits are achieved by using pressure points along the energy pathways in the body, to encourage the free flow of energy, or qi.
How Does Acupressure Work?
Acupressure is thought to treat blocked energy, although it remains uncertain exactly what acupressure does. Some think the pressure may cause the release of endorphins. These are natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body.
Others think the pressure may influence the autonomic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary things like your heart, digestion, and breathing.
What Is Acupressure Used For?
Most people try acupressure to manage a condition, such as:
- Stress management
- Menstrual cramps
- Motion sickness
- Muscle tension and pain5
- Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and morning sickness
- Nausea and vomiting after surgery or chemotherapy
- Cancer-related and other forms of fatigue
A Typical Acupressure Session
Acupressure is often done by an acupuncturist. Depending on what points they need to access, you may sit or lie on a massage table during the session.
You can also do acupressure on yourself. It is best to learn proper technique from an acupuncturist.
In general, though, you apply pressure to a specific point using a thumb, finger, or knuckle. You can also use the tip of a pen. The pressure should be gentle but firm.
Safety and Side Effects of Acupressure
Acupressure should never be painful. If you feel any pain, tell your therapist at once.
Some people may feel sore or have bruises at acupressure points after a session. You may also feel lightheaded for a while.
Pressure should be gentle over sensitive areas, such as the face.
If you’re pregnant, talk to your care provider before trying acupressure. During pregnancy, acupressure isn’t usually done on:
- The abdomen
- Certain points on the leg
- The lower back
Acupressure shouldn’t ever be done over any of these areas:
- Open wounds
- Varicose veins
- Swollen areas
If you have any of these conditions, talk to your healthcare provider before trying acupressure.
- Recent fracture or injury
- Easy bruising
- A bleeding disorder
- Heart disease
- Uncontrolled blood pressure
- Use of prescription anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications, such as Coumadin (warfarin)
Your Acupuncturist can teach to the pressure points so you can do it at home.