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What is Acupressure Massage?

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.

Acupressure Massage On Back

The body has 12 major meridians, and many acupressure points are located on these meridians:

  • Lung (Lu)
  • Large intestine (LI)
  • Stomach (St)
  • Spleen (Sp)
  • Heart (H)
  • Small intestine (SI)
  • Bladder (B)
  • Kidney (K)
  • Pericardium (P)
  • Triple Warmer (TW)
  • Gall Bladder (GB)
  • Liver (Lv)
  • Conception vessel (CV)
  • Governing vessel (GV)

Specific points are identified with a number, for example, GB 14 or St 3. Acupoint location is described in relation to parts of the body, often bones or muscles. For example, GB 14 is located on the forehead, directly above the pupil of the eye, one finger width above the eyebrow. A finger width is also called a cun. You can buy acupressure charts.

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, energy flows freely, while blocked energy leads to illness. Applying pressure to points promotes the energy flow.

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.

Benefits of Acupressure

Pressing acupoints may stimulate the body's natural self-healing abilities by reducing tension, increasing circulation, and helping your body relax. Research suggests stimulating acupoints increases release of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers. 

Using acupressure massage can potentially help relieve many problems, including headaches, back problems, and menstrual cramping, and may also support the immune system. The technique may also help reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and improve sleep quality. See studies on acupressure.

Types Of Acupressure

Acupressure techniques range from light touch or tapping to steadily holding the points.

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. Variations include zen shiatsu, which also incorporates stretches and rhythmic breathing. and barefoot shiatsu, where practitioners use their feet to press points.

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.

Tuina Chinese massage also incorporates the use of acupoints, along with other massage techniques.

You can get lots of information at For some self acupressure, try this acupressure massage mat.

Acupressure 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:

  • Slow kneading using the thumbs, other fingers, and hands to squeeze large muscles.

  • Brisk rubbing (friction) to stimulate blood and lymph circulation.

  • Quick tapping with the fingers to stimulate tender muscles.

Maternity Acupressure

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:

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