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What is it?

Acupressure is a form of massage that is one of the treatment methods used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Chinese people have used acupressure for thousands of years to treat common diseases and maintain health. Its use is described in The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, which was written over 3000 years ago.

The goal of acupressure (as well as other Chinese Medicine treatments) is to encourage the movement of qi ("life energy") through the 14 channels (meridians) inside the body. Chinese Medicine theory states that the constant flow of qi through these channels is essential for a person to keep their health. If this energy flow is blocked, the body can no longer maintain the balance that is needed to maintain high energy and deal with health problems.

A break or blockage of a channel may cause illness or pain at any point along its path. For example, a blockage or decrease in the activity of the gallbladder channel may cause a headache. The headache may be helped by pressing on the points of the gallbladder channel which are at the base of the skull. Points on the large intestine channel may also be pressed to relieve headaches.

Acupressure can be used by a massage therapist or an acupuncturist or you can treat yourself. The therapy consists of pressing the acupuncture points to try to help the free flow of energy in the channel(s). Acupressure is similar to acupuncture but fingers are used to work the point instead of needles.

Tuina is the most popular form of acupressure performed in China and is part of the training of most acupuncturists trained in the United States. Other forms are shen tao, which uses light pressure applied only with the fingertips, and a Japanese form, anma, which is now called shiatsu.

Acupressure improves nausea and vomiting after surgery or during pregnancy. It is also used to reduce the pain from headaches, sore muscles, and joint problems. People using this technique also claim that acupressure can treat obesity, arthritis, improve blood flow, and help prevent future diseases.

During a treatment or self-treatment, you will experience a slight pain when the proper acupuncture point is pressed. Acupressure treatments are generally safe except during pregnancy or with patients who cannot tolerate the treatment due to varicose veins, wounds, or other problems. Acupressure should not be used as the only treatment for serious illness or chronic conditions but should, instead, be in addition to treatment by a licensed doctor.

For more information:


1. Burton Goldberg Group: Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Future Medicine Publishing, Puyallup, WA; 1994.

2. Inglis B & West R: The Alternative Health Guide. Alfred A. Knopf, NY, NY; 1983.

3. Kastner MA: Alternative Healing: The Complete A to Z Guide to Over 160 Different Alternative Therapies. Halcyon Publishing, La Mesa, CA; 1993.

4. Sifton DW: The PDR Family Guide to Natural Medicines and Healing Therapies. Three Rivers Press, NY, NY; 1999.

5. Woodham A & Peters D: Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies, 1st ed. Dorling Kindersley, NY, NY; 1997.

Last Updated: 9/15/2016

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