Both acupressure and acupuncture are based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine and focus on stimulating specific points on the body to stimulate the body's natural healing abilities, promote relaxation, and restore balance.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into specific acupuncture points, while acupressure is a non-invasive technique that involves applying pressure to the same points using fingers, hands, or specialized tools. The points used in both practices are often identical, as they are based on the meridian system and the flow of Qi (energy) within the body.
Acupressure, like acupuncture, is based on the concept of energy flow within the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, energy, or Qi (pronounced "chee"), flows through meridians or pathways in the body. When there is an imbalance or blockage in the flow of Qi, it can lead to physical or emotional discomfort. By applying pressure to certain points along the meridians, acupressure aims to restore the balance of Qi, thereby promoting healing and well-being.
Acupressure can be used to complement acupuncture treatments in several ways, here is the low down for you:
Enhancing treatment effects: Acupressure can be applied to the same points stimulated during an acupuncture session to prolong the therapeutic benefits. Patients can be taught acupressure techniques to use at home between acupuncture sessions, thereby extending the effects of the treatment.
Managing discomfort: Some individuals may experience discomfort or soreness at the sites where acupuncture needles were inserted. Gentle acupressure applied to these areas can help alleviate any lingering discomfort.
Self-care between sessions: Acupressure provides individuals with a means of self-care and empowerment. By learning specific acupressure points related to their condition, patients can use acupressure techniques on their own between acupuncture sessions to manage symptoms, promote relaxation, and support overall well-being.
Stress reduction: Acupressure techniques can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can complement the calming effects of acupuncture. Incorporating acupressure into daily routines can provide ongoing stress relief and support the body's natural healing process.
Common Acupressure Points and Their Benefits
In the same way as a good acupuncturist will be able to determine which acupoints are most suited to treat your symptoms, taking into account your individual characteristics, following advice about the best acupressure points to use will tend to yield better outcomes than simply picking points based on a Google search. So while I've included some examples below, please do read the contraindication section carefully and consider visiting a qualified acupuncturist to discuss your symptoms so that you can design a robust treatment approach.
Feng Chi (GB20):
Located at the base of the skull, on the back of the neck, this point is often used to alleviate headaches, migraines, and neck tension. Gentle pressure or circular motions can be applied for a few minutes to stimulate this point.
Nei Guan (PC6) [IMPORTANT WARNING – DO NOT USE IN PREGNANCY]:
Situated on the inner forearm, approximately two inches above the wrist, Nei Guan is renowned for its potential to relieve nausea, motion sickness, and anxiety. Applying firm pressure or using wristbands that target this area can be beneficial.
He Gu (LI4) [IMPORTANT WARNING – DO NOT USE IN PREGNANCY]:
Found in the fleshy webbing between the thumb and index finger, He Gu is a versatile acupressure point. It is believed to help with various conditions such as headaches, toothaches, stress, and constipation. Applying steady pressure or massaging this point is commonly recommended.
Tai Chong (LV3) [IMPORTANT NOTE – DO NOT USE IF YOU HAVE ASTHMA]:
Situated on the top of the foot, in the depression between the big toe and the second toe, Tai Chong is associated with liver health and stress reduction. Applying moderate pressure or circular motions on this point may help alleviate menstrual discomfort, insomnia, and irritability.
Benefits of Acupressure
Acupressure is celebrated for its numerous potential benefits, including:
Pain relief: Acupressure can help reduce chronic pain, headaches, muscle tension, and menstrual cramps.
Stress reduction: By promoting relaxation and releasing endorphins, acupressure can alleviate stress, anxiety, and promote emotional well-being.
Improved circulation: Stimulating acupressure points may enhance blood circulation, benefiting overall health and vitality.
Enhanced digestion: Acupressure can aid in regulating digestion, relieving nausea, and addressing digestive disorders.
Contraindications for acupressure
While acupressure is generally considered safe, there are certain contraindications or precautions to keep in mind. It is important to be aware of these factors and consult with a qualified acupuncturist before using acupressure, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.
It is common to see acupressure points promoted online without warnings. As you’ll see from the list below, care needs to be taken which is why at Acupuncture Surrey we will give careful and clear instructions about any acupressure points we suggest. We also ask our patients not to ‘prescribe’ points to friends or family without reading this blog.
Here are some common contraindications to consider:
Pregnancy: Certain acupressure points are known to stimulate uterine contractions and should be avoided during pregnancy, as they may pose a risk to the developing fetus. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional experienced in prenatal care or an acupressure practitioner specializing in pregnancy before using acupressure during pregnancy.
Recent injuries or surgeries: Applying pressure to areas that are healing from recent injuries or surgeries can potentially disrupt the healing process or cause discomfort. It is advisable to avoid applying pressure directly to these areas until they have sufficiently healed. Consult with your healthcare provider for specific guidance.
Open wounds or skin conditions: Avoid applying acupressure directly to open wounds, cuts, or infected areas on the skin, as it may introduce bacteria or impede the healing process. Additionally, be cautious when applying pressure to areas with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, as it can potentially aggravate the condition.
Serious medical conditions: Individuals with serious medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disorders, cancer, or blood disorders, should exercise caution with acupressure. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine whether acupressure is safe and appropriate for your specific condition.
Medications: Some medications may interact with acupressure or alter the body's response to pressure points. It is advisable to inform your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking to ensure there are no contraindications.
Fragile or sensitive areas: Exercise caution when applying pressure to delicate areas such as the eyes, throat, abdomen during pregnancy, or areas with varicose veins. Gentle pressure or alternative techniques may be more suitable for these regions.
Always remember that acupressure should not replace conventional medical treatment. It is crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional or acupuncturist to receive appropriate guidance and ensure the safety and effectiveness of acupressure in your specific circumstances.