Everything You Need To Know About Acupressure
Everything You Need To Know About Acupressure

Everything You Need To Know About Acupressure

You might have heard of acupressure, but how much do you really know about this alternative therapy? Wellness experts will tell you it’s a natural solution to everything from pain relief to poor sleep and stress, so we decided to take a look at how it works and how to get started…
By Georgia Day

What is acupressure?

Acupressure is an alternative therapy that’s often used alongside other techniques such as acupuncture and reflexology. Like many other therapies, it has its roots in the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). “Acupressure is an ancient Chinese discipline that facilitates the energetic rebalancing of Qi, a vital energy that runs through the body's meridians,” explains Michelle Roques-O’Neil, founder of Therapie. Like acupuncture, it works with 12 meridian pathways in the body, but it uses pressure from fingers rather than needles to treat certain points on the body, each of which correspond to a particular bodily region, organ, function or purpose. These meridian pathways are like invisible passageways through which energy flows. If Qi is blocked at any point on one of these pathways, it’s thought to cause various health issues. Depending on your symptoms, pressure is applied to specific points to restore healthy Qi flow. “Instead of a needle, deep pressure is applied to points called tsubos, often in the exact locations of acupuncture points,” adds Michelle. 

What are the benefits of acupressure?

 “It can alleviate pain from migraines and headaches, reduce stress and aid relaxation, help with nausea relief for pregnancy, travel sickness or chemotherapy, and aid digestion,” says Michelle. As with many alternative therapies, large-scale definitive research is still ongoing, but some smaller studies suggest that acupressure can help reduce the sensation of pain by stimulating certain nerves in the body through touch. And it’s this notion of touch that seems to be so potent, with other studies suggesting acupressure is an effective way to stimulate the production of natural feel-good chemicals like endorphins, while reducing levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Because of this, it’s touted as a way to regulate the nervous system and aid with everything from sleep to digestion. As well as being accessible, acupressure is affordable (free if you do it yourself) and can be done anywhere and anytime, which is ideal if you need a reset, whether you’re at your desk or on the train.

What are the downsides to acupressure?

As with all types of alternative therapy, what works for some people may not work for others. Although it’s considered safe, you may experience some unexpected or unwanted reactions, which sometimes include soreness, nausea and emotional release. “This is in line with the release of blockages, which can be emotional or physical,” explains Michelle. As a precaution, deep tissue therapy like acupressure should be avoided if you have certain existing medical conditions like bone cancer or certain bone diseases, varicose veins and rheumatoid arthritis. If you’re pregnant, it’s important to find a practitioner who can treat you specifically, as certain pressure points can induce labour. To find a practitioner near you, FindATherapy is a good resource.

Can anyone do acupressure?

The lack of needles or any other equipment means anyone can do acupressure. However, as Michelle asserts, it’s worth doing a little homework on key points and where to find them before you start. Although it’s not strictly necessary to use any products when doing acupressure, Michelle recommends some additions to enhance your experience. “For muscular relief, apply a warming rub after your session,” she says. “And if you are doing facial acupressure, use a little face oil to avoid drag.” When it comes to the type of pressure needed, use firm but gentle pressure or try circular motions. “Depending on the issue you are dealing with, start by applying pressure for one to three minutes,” advises Michelle. “You can revisit and apply three to four times during the day if the issue doesn’t resolve itself.”

Can acupressure be performed all over the body?

Just as in acupuncture, acupressure works on hundreds of pressure points located in the body. While you might be familiar with some on your hands, feet and body, there are also plenty found in your head, which hair stylist Sam McKnight likes to incorporate into a daily haircare routine. “There are acupressure points (like the temples, top of the head, and occipital ridge, which is at the nape of the neck) all over the scalp that are easy to stimulate yourself,” he says. “They reduce stress and help create a healthier scalp.” For a research-free route to acupressure, try a Bed of Nails acupressure mat. The mat, which features thousands of small, rounded nails, is designed to stimulate points in the body to promote relaxation, pain relief and overall wellbeing. Although it might sound painful, the mat contains recycled plastic nails on rounded nail plates which are supposed to feel invigorating rather than sharp. If you can stretch to 20 minutes (building up in nightly increments is suggested) then you should reap the rewards, but even five minutes ought to improve circulation and reduce tension.

What are some key acupressure points to know about?

“Often, acupressure points have names as well as their anatomical locations,” says Michelle. “One of the main points for pain relief is on the large intestine meridian called the Joining Valley or Hegu, which is used for stress, facial pain, headaches, toothaches, and neck pain.” Another important one to note is the Ren 6 Sea of Qi, which Michelle says is perfect for boosting the immune system and can be found just below the navel. 

Are there any other therapies that work well alongside acupressure? 

Although acupressure can be done as a standalone treatment, depending on your requirements it can be combined with other therapies like massage, cryotherapy, stretching and heat therapy to induce relaxation, ease tension and promote feelings of wellbeing. For this reason, it’s often used as an addition to more serious medical treatments, with many physical rehabilitation facilities offering acupressure as part of their post-surgical therapy pain-relief programmes or physical therapy programmes to improve movement and mobility. If you’re after something more relaxing, Michelle suggests trying acupressure alongside Qi Gong, a martial art that uses coordinated body posture and movement, breathing and meditation exercises to rebalance energy flow. “Simple practices like shaking and waking the meridians by lightly slapping along them in the direction they flow can also support your acupressure,” she adds.

What is a simple acupressure routine to try?

Whichever routine you choose to do, always start with some deep abdominal breathing, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you begin, breathe in as you apply the pressure and out as you release it.

Here are three of Michelle’s favourite simple routines to try…

Place of One Hundred Meetings or Bai Hui GV20:
Place a finger on the top of each ear and run your fingers up the sides of your head until they meet at the top of your head. Apply gentle pressure to this meeting point, and massage for one to two minutes. This acupressure point brings mental clarity and raises your body's emotional energies.

Sea of Tranquillity CV-17:  
Stimulate the point on your breastbone, about three fingers’ width above the bone's base, where you feel an indentation. This will improve emotional balance, mental clarity and focus.

Three Mile ST34:
This is about a four-finger width below the kneecap and just outside the tibia bone. Perform pressure on both legs. This point increases energy lost through stress and fatigue. 

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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