Acupressure is part of traditional Chinese medicine, it is much used in Asia but less common in the West. It is an ancient therapy, which predates acupuncture. Acupressure is non invasive, contrary to acupuncture, it uses pressure instead of needles. Pressure is applied to specific points on the surface of the skin (acupoints), these points are the same as in acupuncture. This form of therapy is also based on theories of 'life energy' or chi, it is believed that chi flows through the body along pathways called meridians, there are 14 meridians associated to organs. Any imbalance leads to illness. When there is illness there are blockages. In Chinese medicine it is believed that individuals can restore their own health emphasizes personal responsibility for one's health, unlike much of Western medicine.

Acupuncturists may use it as part of their treatment and it is claimed to be suitable for self-treating minor ailments. 'Tuina' is the most common type of acupressure. Other forms include 'shen tao' in which very light pressure is applied using only the fingertips, and 'jin shin do' where relatively few acupoints are used and the patient is encouraged to enter a meditative state. The Japanese version of the therapy, called 'anma' developed into what is now called shiatsu.

How Does It Work

The practitioner will stimulate acupoints using the fingers, thumbs and even feet and knees. Acupoints act as valves for the flow of chi, they are nerve endings along the meridians . This releases tension in the muscle fibres and clears energy blockages in the meridians, the effect of which is more far-reaching than just the relaxation of the muscle tissue as muscular tension can be realease, it also promote the release of endorphins -- neurochemicals that relieve pain. the muscle is compressed much like a sponge and blood is sent rushing into the tissue from its release.

'Tuina', which means push and grasp, involves vigorous body massage utilising many different techniques. Along with pressure point treatment, gentle stretching and corrective exercises are also used." Pressure and massage are used to balance the flow of life energy. Slight discomfort may be felt when the acupoints are pressed.

In treatment it is not necessary to undress and oils are not used.

Some benefits of certain acupoints have been supported by research (see Acupuncture) but the meridian system is not accepted by conventional Western physiology. GPs consider that acupressure must be less effective than needles and find it hard to accept that such gentle pressure techniques may be able to affect internal organs in such a precise way.

Stern RM, Jokerst MD, Muth ER, Hollis C. Acupressure relieves the symptoms of motion sickness and reduces abnormal gastric activity. Altern Ther Health Med 2001 Jul-Aug;7(4):91-4

Windle PE, Borromeo A, Robles H, Ilacio-Uy V. The effects of acupressure on the incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting in postsurgical patients. J Perianesth Nurs 2001 Jun;16(3):158-162. Neither unilateral nor bilateral application of acupressure significantly affected the incidence of nausea and vomiting.

Harmon D, Ryan M, Kelly A, Bowen M. Acupressure and prevention of nausea and vomiting during and after spinal anaesthesia for caesarean section. Br J Anaesth 2000 Apr;84(4):463-7

Conditions That Respond To

Digestive disorders
High blood pressure
Musculo-skeletal problems
Promoting health
Women's health

Acupressure is regularly used by Chinese people, particularly for self-treating common ailments and to boost the immune system. Certain acupoints should not be stimulated in pregnancy.

If undertaking any therapy, always check its suitability for a specific condition.


For further information

British Acupuncture Council

63 Jeddo Road

London W12 9HQ

Tel: 020 8735 0400 

Website: http://www.acupuncture.org.uk 

British Medical Acupuncture Society  

BMAS Northwich  

BMAS House, 3 Winnington Court

Northwich Cheshire CW8 1AQ

Tel: 01606 786782 

Website:  http://www.medical-acupuncture.co.uk/Default.aspx?tabid=40


These are some of the references that have been passed to us; the list is not exhaustive. We haven't necessarily read the books, and cannot say how easy it will be to get them.

- Acupressure's Potent Points: A Guide to Self-Care for Common Ailments, Michael Reed Gach
- Acupoint Pocket Reference, Bob Flaws (Editor), Honora L. Wolfe.
- Acupressure (Naturally Better), Carola Beresford-Cooke, Peter Albright (Editor).
- Acupressure Techniques: A Self-help Guide, Julian, MD Kenyon

See also: Acupuncture / auricular acupuncture.

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