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Acupressure is an ancient healing art using the fingers to skillfully press key points, which stimulate the body's natural self-curative abilities. When these trigger points are pressed, they release muscular tension, and promote circulation of blood, and the body's life force energy to aid healing.  Acupuncture and acupressure use the same pressure points and meridians, but acupuncture employs needles, while acupressure uses gentle to firm pressure and integrates bodywork therapies, therapeutic touch, somatic work, healing imagery, energy psychology, and massage therapy techniques.

Our soft internal organ systems (the viscera) are connected with the exterior of our bodies (the bones, muscles, flesh) by a series of major energy channels, as well as by networks of small connecting vessels.  Thousands of years ago, Asian cultures identified locations on the body where these energy pathways are close to the surface.  In fact, these points can now be located with electronic "point finders" that measure electrical skin resistance.  Acupressure points have a lower electrical resistance than the surrounding skin.

In Chinese medicine, energy and blood are closely related.  The energy channels are pathways for both chi and blood.  When a finger touches an acupressure point, the energy flowing in the channel is attracted to the surface.  An acupressure practitioner will hold a point until she feels a pulsation under her finger.  When energy is attracted to the surface, the flow of blood increases at that location and the pulse is felt.  The pulse is a confirmation that the energy is now flowing.

A practitioner may use a variety of tools (pulse diagnosis, questioning, looking, listening) to assess the relative strength of the twelve major energy channels.  She may find that one channel has an excess of energy and another is deficient in energy.  There are different methods for holding points, depending on the relative strength of the energy.

By holding points in a specific sequence, energy can be increased where it is lacking or dispersed where it is overabundant.  An acupressure practitioner will move one hand along a series of points, waiting for the pulse to arrive.  She holds the other hand on a "home-base" point, selected for its ability to assist the other points in releasing.

Acupressure and acupuncture use the same theory and assessment tools to select the points used in a session.  An acupressure practitioner has some advantages.  Because her hands are in contact with the points, she can detect changes in the energy during the session.  She can then modify the selection of points to accommodate the body's response.  In addition, some points are not easy to needle, since they are located too close to bone or nerves, whereas all points are available to the acupressurist's touch.

While some acupuncturists include hands-on massage and hands-on assessment as part of their treatment, most do not.  An acupressure session typically begins with Tui Na.  This initial massage prepares the body to receive the work with specific points, increasing the effectiveness of the work.  For this reason, acupressure produces a deeper level of relaxation than a typical acupuncture treatment.  Ultimately, this deeply relaxed state allows us to reduce stress and strengthen the body's natural healing ability.

Stimulating specific points on the body can trigger the release of endorphins (chemicals produced by the body that relieve pain).  When endorphins are released, pain is blocked, and the flow of blood and oxygen to the affected area is increased.  This causes the muscles to relax and promotes healing.  In acupressure, as with most traditional Chinese medicine concepts, local symptoms are considered an expression of the whole body's condition.

Advantages of Acupressure include relieving pain, balancing the body, and maintaining good health.  Acupressure's healing touch reduces tension, increases circulation and enables the body to heal.  By relieving stress, acupressure therapy strengthens resistance to disease and promotes wellness. 


Frequently Asked Acupressure Questions:

How Does Acupressure Work?
Even amongst the best "scientific" minds, no one knows how an aspirin works.  They know how aspirin affects the body and what symptoms it will help alleviate, but no one knows the mechanisms by which it functions.  The same is true with acupressure.

From studies done by Western scientists we know that the acupressure points can be measured electrically.  Scientists have also shown that acupuncture and acupressure produces higher levels of important bio-chemicals.  Other studies show that acupressure can increase blood flow in even the deepest body tissues.

Some scientists have shown that electrically active fascia, the tissues that wrap and interconnect the whole body, could be the location of a sensitive communications network; the basis for which acupuncture and acupressure work.  In terms of using acupressure for the purposes of relaxing muscles, it works by increasing the blood flow to muscle tissue surrounding the acu-point.  Increased blood flow naturally warms the muscles between 2 to 3 degrees.  Increased muscle temperature allows the muscle to become more relaxed and flexible.


Acupressure works in five ways to stimulate your body’s natural self-curative abilities.

  • Releases endorphins in your nervous system.
  • Controls the transmission of pain in the thin nerves.
  • Improves circulation.
  • Directly elongate the abnormally contracted muscle fibers.
  • Triggers the self-curative neuro-humoral system.

What does acupressure feel like?
Most people really enjoy the feeling of acupressure.  At first, acupressure is applied to a point related to a tense or spasmed muscle, you will notice a feeling best described as a "good ache.”  Within 15 seconds to 1 minute of pressure, you will notice the ache gradually diminish and be replaced by a relaxed and warm feeling.

My back is stiff when I get out of bed in the morning.  Will acupressure help?
Yes, acupressure is very effective for any type of muscle stiffness.  Acupressure techniques will increase circulation to your back muscles and you will notice immediate improvement in your ability to do normal activities such as picking up the morning paper, or tying your shoes.

My shoulders are knotted up from sitting at the computer.  Will this help?
Yes, it will.  Within one or two treatments, you notice a big difference in the way your neck and shoulders feel.  Muscle tightness is a result from sitting in the same position, doing the same thing, all day long.

Because the body mechanics involved with working on a computer are what they are, neck and shoulder tension is a common result.  Left untreated, tension develops into spasms, spasms into pain and limited range of motion, and then into chronic conditions such as osteo-arthritis, pinched nerves, displaced vertebrae, herniated discs of your spine, and headaches.

Is acupressure better than stretching exercises to warm up for physical exercise?
Acupressure is far more effective for warming up and relaxing muscles than is stretching.
To understand this think about why we call it "warming up.”  When things get warm, they become looser and more flexible.  Solids are less brittle and bend more easily, liquids flow more smoothly, and tight spots expand.

Our muscles exhibit the same characteristics.  When they are "warmed up" from acupressure, they are less likely to become injured and are more responsive to the demands we place on them.  Acupressure techniques increase muscle temperature 2 to 3 degrees and increase flexibility without force or strain.

In flexibility, studies conducted at various health clinics and on various age groups, standard flexibility measurements were taken before and after applying acupressure techniques.  Results show an impressive increase in flexibility between 9 and 31 percent after applying acupressure techniques for the first time.

What can acupressure do for shoulder tendinitis?
Shoulder tendinitis can be very painful and chronic condition.  Acupressure therapy is extremely effective for treating this condition.  Within the first treatment, you will notice a remarkable improvement in how you can move your arm, however, tendinitis is a stubborn condition.

After the second acupressure treatment, you will feel better for a longer period of time, but true to the nature of tendinitis, the symptoms may return depending upon your activities. 

It may take up to six treatments before you feel completely recovered. In the meantime, acupressure will make day-to-day activities that require you to raise your arm much more comfortable.

Is acupressure safe when I am pregnant?
Acupressure is highly recommended to relieve aches that so commonly accompany pregnancy.  Back pain is one of the most common discomforts during pregnancy, especially during the last trimester.  Acupressure relieves back pain discomfort safely, without drugs and medicines, during pregnancy.

How can acupressure be so effective?
When acupressure points are pressed, your own nervous system releases specific molecules in the muscles, spinal cord and brain.  These molecules, like endorphins, remove pain, or they trigger the release of additional molecules and hormones, which in turn eliminate pain and naturally boost your body's own healing systems.  Acupressure also controls the pain message transmission in your nerves, blocking the nerves that carry pain messages.

How fast does acupressure work?
Acupressure is as fast as your nervous system.  When you press the right combination of acupressure points, it activates your neural system to heal your back pain.  You can experience back pain relief in few seconds.  As you can imagine, your nervous system is incredibly speedy, and that is the speed acupressure uses to help relieve your back pain.  If more neuronal “messengers” are triggered, it might take from 60 seconds to few minutes to see results.

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