Acupressure therapy, also called acupoint massage, is an ancient system of alternative medicine centered on the flow of qi in the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, qi is the ‘life energy’ which flows throughout the body’s 12 meridians or healing energy channels. The belief is a blockage in one of these meridians will result in an imbalance of qi and lead to illness. While Western massage therapy aims at releasing tension within the muscles and fascia, acupressure aims at releasing tension within the acupoints. In treatment, therapists reference the same pressure points outlined in Acupuncture, but they utilize finger pressure rather than needles to clear blockages in the energy pathways, making this a much less invasive form of therapy. Sessions typically last an hour, and clients remain fully clothed while practitioners gently press on their trigger points. In addition to their hands and elbows, therapists may also employ various instruments to apply pressure to the patient’s body. Such instruments include the acuball, energy, foot and spine rollers, and power mat.
This traditional system of Chinese medicine was founded in Asia thousands of years ago. It appears to originate from Taoism, as it seeks to correct the imbalance of energy within the body. Taoism is a philosophical and religious system which emphasizes simplicity and naturalness as means of living in harmony with the Tao. In Taoist terms, then, the balance attained by acupressure corresponds with the harmony of yin and yang, the two opposing life forces.
Generally speaking, acupressure increases circulation, decreases pain, tension and stress, boosts the immune system, stimulates endorphins and promotes wellness and resistance to disease. However, each pressure point formula correlates to a different health condition, so the benefits vary immensely. For example, research suggests that wrist acupressure reduces nausea and vomiting, particularly after surgery, chemotherapy or spinal anesthesia, as well as during motion sickness or pregnancy.
Among its diverse applications, acupoint massage may be used as a facial beauty treatment, which increases circulation, reduces the appearance of wrinkles, and enhances muscle tone and connective tissue. It is also frequently used to alleviate chronic muscular tension and back pain, as some of the most important trigger points are located around the spine and upper back. It is even combined with chiropractic treatment because it loosens the muscles and makes adjustments easier.
Acupoint massage therapy poses also numerous mental health benefits, including decreased stress, anxiety and depression. Emotional imbalances are often manifested physically (i.e. insomnia, tension headaches, ulcers), and this system of bodywork attempts to heal both by allowing energy to move freely throughout the mind and body.