The use of the term acupressure massage isn't accurate because acupressure isn't massage in the Western sense.
Acupressure is an Asian bodywork therapy based on the same energy principles used in acupuncture. Practitioners use pressure instead of needles on the points (acupoints) which are on energy lines called meridians.
The use of acupoints began to develop over 5,000 years ago in China. Life energy (chi or qi) flows through the meridians, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. In a healthy person, the energy flows freely, while blocked energy leads to illness. Applying pressure to points promotes the flow of energy.
In Western terms, acupressure points are places on the skin that are especially sensitive to bioelectrical impulses and readily conduct these impulses, states Acupressure's Potent Points.
Pressing acupoints may stimulate the body's natural self-healing abilities by reducing tension, increasing circulation, and helping your body relax. Research suggests that stimulation of acupoints increases release of endorphins.
Using pressure on acupoints can potentially help many problems, including headaches, back problems, and menstrual cramping, and may also support the immune system.
The most well-known type of acupressure is shiatsu, which originated in Japan. Shiatsu can be quite vigorous, with firm pressure applied to each point for only three to five seconds. In contrast, in Jin Shin, the practitioner gently holds two points simultaneously for a minute or more.
Tuina Chinese massage also incorporates the use of acupoints, along with other massage techniques.
Holding firm, steady pressure on a point is the best known acupressure technique. One minute of gradually applied pressure calms and relaxes the nervous system, promoting healing. To stimulate, rather than relax, apply pressure for only four to five seconds, according to Acupressure's Potent Points.
Other acupressure techniques include:
For pregnant women, studies suggest that maternity acupressure can relieve some of the unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy and reduce pain during labor. (Note that some points shouldn't be pressed during pregnancy because they may initiate early labor.) Here's a video showing how to find maternity acupressure points: