What is acupressure?
Acupressure is a form of massage therapy originating from China. While the practice is thought to be over 5000 years old, it is still common today and used as an alternative therapy for a wide range of conditions.
During a session, a therapist applies pressure to specific parts of the body using their fingers, elbows, palms or feet. The areas of the body correspond to the body’s energy lines, also known as meridians. It’s believed these energy lines can often get blocked which can cause pain or discomfort in the body.
What are meridians?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a meridian is an invisible channel through which qi – the body’s vital energy flows. Similar to our nervous system, the meridian pathways can be mapped throughout the entire body. It is thought when illness or pain occurs, the body’s energy cannot flow freely, and creates an imbalance in the body. An acupressure therapist puts pressure on specific parts of our meridian lines to clear these blockages, helping us feel well again. Therefore a practitioner may focus on different parts of the body to the symptomatic area, treating the body holistically.
What is the difference between acupressure and acupuncture?
Acupressure and acupuncture both focus on unblocking energy in the body. Although the technique used is different. Acupuncture uses fine needles to stimulate sensory nerves under the skin. In an acupressure session, the therapist will apply pressure to the body using their hands, elbows or feet.
The main difference is that acupuncture needles tend to trigger a stronger reaction to the blockages. Whereas acupressure is less invasive and more suitable for people with an aversion to needles. A benefit with acupressure is that you can also perform it on yourself once you’ve been guided by a professional.
What are some of the proven benefits of acupressure treatment?
1. Relieves pain
According to a systematic review in 2014, acupressure has been shown to relieve a variety of pain in different situations – including back pain, chronic headaches and labour induced pain. This review has helped establish acupressure as a credible evidence-based treatment for pain relief. It’s not uncommon now for healthcare practitioners to incorporate acupressure into treatment plans for pain sufferers.
2. Treats migraines and tension headaches
Several major studies prove acupuncture is an effective treatment for migraines and severe tension headaches. There have been fewer studies however into the effectiveness of acupressure, therefore less available evidence.
That doesn’t mean it’s ineffective though. A two-year study found self-applied acupressure is an effective treatment for migraines and tension headaches. Doctors were able to replace outpatient prescriptions with self-applied pressure techniques. Establishing it as a safe alternative to painkillers and oral medications. In addition, you can now buy wearable pressure pads for chronic sufferers of migraines and headaches.
3. Prevents nausea and vomiting
Numerous studies conclude using acupressure is effective at preventing nausea. In particular, one study found that using pressure bands on the wrists can alleviate nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. The results favour using acupressure as a safe and effective way to manage symptoms of nausea in pregnant women. It can also be prescribed for other situations such as travelling or motion sickness.
4. Reduces anxiety and depression
Acupressure treatment is not just for physical conditions. It can also have a therapeutic effect on some mental health conditions, most notably anxiety.
A systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that acupressure provides immediate relief for patients awaiting a surgical operation or treatment. Another study found that acupressure given 3 times a week significantly reduced depression and anxiety in patients with hemodialysis. However, there are few studies into the effects of acupressure on anxiety outside of clinical situations.
5. Alleviates PMS symptoms
A Cochrane review of available trials found acupressure can reduce physical and mental premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms in women. Again acupressure is beneficial for providing self-controlled relief, without the prescription of a healthcare provider. And there are no known negative side effects from the therapy.
Is acupressure therapy right for you?
The lack of clinical trials in eastern medicine will never match those conducted by modern, pharmaceutical trials which means the evidence supporting traditional eastern medicine, and in this instance, acupressure will be limited. However, the studies that have been conducted are overwhelmingly positive and in favour of acupressure as a non-toxic alternative therapy for both physical and mental conditions. Other conditions that can benefit from the treatment include high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, digestive issues, stress, poor sleep patterns and arthritis.
What to expect in your first session
Like with most holistic therapies, acupressure therapists take a good look at your health history as a whole. Expect to spend most of the session talking about your eating, sleeping and work habits, and a short examination of your pulse and tongue. The therapist will use this information to determine the meridian lines which contain imbalances that need to be addressed.
Ideally wear clothing that allows access to your knees, lower legs, and arms where most of the Acupressure points will be found. Your first session will start slowly, usually with the therapist applying light touch to a few areas of your body to see how your body responds to the pressure.
Your therapist will form a treatment plan and suggest follow up sessions to target the root cause of your symptoms. You might also receive some diet and lifestyle guidelines, and given recommended pressure points to work on in your own time. A typical course of weekly treatments can last from four weeks to several months depending on your condition. Some people may only need one session to feel significant benefits in their body.
How to find a therapist
It’s common for acupressure therapists to be trained in several other holistic disciplines such as acupuncture, holistic massage and reiki. Usually, practitioners train for at least three years to become professionals and can specialise in specific techniques such as Tui Na, Shiatsu and Su Jok massage. Currently, there is no statutory regulation of acupressure therapists in England. However, it is sometimes available on the NHS. There are some recognised professional bodies that therapists can register with.
You can book appointments directly with acupressure therapists directly on Holistify, or contact the practitioner before booking if you have any questions relating to your condition or the therapy.