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Acupressure Uses & Benefits

Acupressure is a type of massage therapy in which manual pressure is applied to specific points on the body. It is a practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice 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. This article explains the procedure of acupressure massage and how pressure points are used. It discusses the safety and side effects of acupressure, as well as research on acupressure benefits.

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.

According to the principles of TCM, invisible pathways of energy called meridians flow within the body. At least 14 meridians are thought to connect the organs with other parts of the body.1 If qi is blocked at any point on a meridian, it’s thought to cause health problems along that pathway.

A practitioner applies pressure to specific acupressure points to restore healthy energy flow. The points they choose depend on your symptoms.

Given how meridians run, pressure points used may be distant from the site of the symptom. For example, an acupressure point on the foot may be used to relieve a headache.

Our Acupressure Treatment Gallery

What Happens During An 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. Increase the pressure for about 30 seconds. Then hold it steady for 30 seconds to two minutes. Next, gradually decrease the pressure for 30 seconds. Repeat three to five times.

Do Acupressure Mats Work?

Acupressure mats are designed to improve circulation and reduce muscle pain. They’re made with thousands of small spikes to reach as many pressure points as possible, often with foam padding and other useful features. While they’re available for home use, you may want to talk to a qualified acupuncturist before you try doing acupressure, or using an acupressure device like mats or wristbands, on yourself.