Acupressure massage performed by a therapist can be very effective both as prevention and as a treatment for many health conditions, including headaches, general aches and pains, colds and flu, arthritis, allergies, asthma, nervous tension, menstrual cramps, sinus problems, sprains, tennis elbow, and toothaches, among others. Unlike acupuncture which requires a visit to a professional, acupressure can be performed by a layperson. Acupressure techniques are fairly easy to learn, and have been used to provide quick, cost-free, and effective relief from many symptoms. Acupressure points can also be stimulated to increase energy and feelings of well-being, reduce stress, stimulate the immune system, and alleviate sexual dysfunction.
Acupressure and Chinese medicine
Chinese medicine views the body as a small part of the universe, subject to laws and principles of harmony and balance. Chinese medicine does not make as sharp a destinction as Western medicine does between mind and body. The Chinese system believes that emotions and mental states are every bit as influential on disease as purely physical mechanisms, and considers factors like work, environment, and relationships as fundamental to a patient's health. Chinese medicine also uses very different symbols and ideas to discuss the body and health. While Western medicine typically describes health as mainly physical processes composed of chemical equations and reactions, the Chinese use ideas like yin and yang, chi, and the organ system to describe health and the body.
Everything in the universe has properties of yin and yang. Yin is associated with cold, female, passive, downward, inward, dark, wet. Yang can be described as hot, male, active, upward, outward, light, dry, and so on. Nothing is either completely yin or yang. These two principles always interact and affect each other, although the body and its organs can become imbalanced by having either too much or too little of either.
Chi (pronounced chee, also spelled qi or ki in Japanese shiatsu) is the fundamental life energy. It is found in food, air, water, and sunlight, and it travels through the body in channels called meridians. There are 12 major meridians in the body that transport chi, corresponding to the 12 main organs categorized by Chinese medicine.
Disease is viewed as an imbalance of the organs and chi in the body. Chinese medicine has developed intricate systems of how organs are related to physical and mental symptoms, and it has devised corresponding treatments using the meridian and pressure point networks that are classified and numbered. The goal of acupressure, and acupuncture, is to stimulate and unblock the circulation of chi, by activating very specific points, called pressure points or acupoints. Acupressure seeks to stimulate the points on the chi meridians that pass close to the skin, as these are easiest to unblock and manipulate with finger pressure.
Acupressure can be used as part of a Chinese physician's prescription, as a session of massage therapy, or as a self-treatment for common aches and illnesses. A Chinese medicine practitioner examines a patient very thoroughly, looking at physical, mental and emotional activity, taking the pulse usually at the wrists, examining the tongue and complexion, and observing the patient's demeanor and attitude, to get a complete diagnosis of which organs and meridian points are out of balance. When the imbalance is located, the physician will recommend specific pressure points for acupuncture or acupressure. If acupressure is recommended, the patient might opt for a series of treatments from a massage therapist.
In massage therapy, acupressurists will evaluate a patient's symptoms and overall health, but a massage therapist's diagnostic training isn't as extensive as a Chinese physician's. In a massage therapy treatment, a person usually lies down on a table or mat, with thin clothing on. The acupressurist will gently feel and palpate the abdomen and other parts of the body to determine energy imbalances. Then, the therapist will work with different meridians throughout the body, depending on which organs are imbalanced in the abdomen. The therapist will use different types of finger movements and pressure on different acupoints, depending on whether the chi needs to be increased or dispersed at different points. The therapist observes and guides the energy flow through the patient's body throughout the session. Sometimes, special herbs (Artemesia vulgaris or moxa) may be placed on a point to warm it, a process called moxibustion. A session of acupressure is generally a very pleasant experience, and some people experience great benefit immediately. For more chronic conditions, several sessions may be necessary to relieve and improve conditions.
Acupressure massage usually costs from $30–70 per hour session. A visit to a Chinese medicine physician or acupuncturist can be more expensive, comparable to a visit to an allopathic physician if the practitioner is an MD. Insurance reimbursement varies widely, and consumers should be aware if their policies cover alternative treatment, acupuncture, or massage therapy.
Douglas Dupler, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,