What is acupressure?

Jill Blakeway, MS, LAc
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Acupressure is different from acupuncture in that it doesn't involve needles; it's a massage technique that is effective in managing pain and allergy symptoms. Watch as acupuncturist Jill Blakeway describes the healthy benefits of acupressure.

Acupressure is the application of pressure or localized massage to specific sites on the body to control symptoms such as pain or nausea. It is a type of complementary and alternative medicine.

This answer is based on source information from The National Cancer Institute.

Ben Kaminsky
Acupressure is a form of Chinese healing that uses touch instead of needles to unblock Qi (the flow of energy throughout the body) and allow the meridians or pathways of energy to flow smoothly. For example, pressing a specific acupressure point) on the wrist (called P6 or Neiguan point) has been found to be effective for some types of motion sickness.

With acupressure, the practitioner uses the fingers to press key points on the surface of the skin to stimulate the body's natural self-curative abilities. Pressure is applied gently initially, but then increases to the point where a strong sensation is felt. Using acupressure regularly helps to trigger the relaxation response, the physiological state that is characterized by a feeling of warmth and quiet mental alertness. You may also experience less muscle tension and reduced pain in the muscles and joints.
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Acupressure was one of the first healing touch therapies in ancient China and was used before acupuncture. While it uses the same bodily points, there are no needles. This popular form of Chinese healing uses touch to unblock Qi (pronounced “chee”), life energy that is vital to one’s health, and to allow the meridians or pathways to flow smoothly. In Oriental medicine, Qi travels along 12 imaginary meridians (pathways) in the body to keep the body nourished. The meridians correspond to specific human organs: kidneys, liver, spleen, hearth, lungs, pericardium, bladder, gall bladder, stomach, small and large intestines, and the triple burner (body temperature regulator). It is believed that when the meridians are blocked, it results in illness or pain. When the channels are open, life energy flows smoothly and you experience optimal health Many of the body’s acu-points are near nerves. When the nerves are stimulated, it causes a dull ache or pressure in the muscle. This, in turn, triggers a message to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and causes the release of endorphins and monoamines, the chemicals that block pain signals in the spinal cord and the brain. Acupressure is also thought to trigger the release of serotonin, a brain chemical that makes you feel calm and serene. After experiencing acupressure, you may experience less muscle tension, increased blood circulation, and a reduced amount of pain. Today acupressure exists mainly in Asian countries such as India, China, Japan, and Korea and is used to relieve everyday aches, pains, and stress, as well as specific conditions such as sinus pressure, leg cramps, tension headaches, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), back and neck pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Acupressure is similar to acupuncture (a traditional Chinese healing method) in that it enables the body to identify and release tension. For those who are uncomfortable with needles, acupressure is a viable alternative to acupuncture. With acupressure, the hands and fingers apply slow and gradual pressure to neural receptor sites along the meridians, simulating chi flow. In Japan, this finger pressure is called shiatsu. Another technique, called cupping or electroacupuncture involves placing small, hot cups on acupuncture points.
Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
Acupressure is a practice that uses pressure rather than needles at specific acupuncture points.    The theory behind its use is the same as that for acupuncture, which is that there are forces in the body known as Yin, which is cold and passive, and Yang, which is hot and active. When these forces are balanced, there is health.  When they are unbalanced there is illness.  In addition, there are meridians or channels of energy known as Qi (pronounced chi) that run through the body.  When there is imbalance between Yin and Yang, these channels can become blocked or stagnant.  By stimulating acupuncture points on the body either by pressure or with needles, these channels are opened and Qi begins to flow freely, which restores balance and allows healing to take place. 
Pressure can be applied with a finger or a device.  One well-known acupressure device is a bracelet often used by women with morning sickness.  It applies pressure to the acupuncture points on the wrist, which helps to relieve nausea.  Since acupressure does not use needles, it is easy to do and you can do it on yourself, provided you know the proper points.
Henry McCann, DAOM
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

Acupressure is a type of massage that uses finger pressure to stimulate the same points that an acupuncturist uses needles on. While acupuncture should only be performed by a licensed health care provider, acupressure is safe and easy enough to be used as a home therapy for many different types of problems. 

Chris Kilham
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

Acupressure is a specific therapy derived from traditional Chinese acupuncture, in which various points on the body are stimulated with fingertip pressure. The idea of acupressure is to enhance the flow of energy throughout the entire body/mind system, thereby enhancing health and relieving various problems including pain, and various common disorders.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.