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What is Acupressure?

Acupressure is often called acupuncture without the needles. Instead of needles, acupressure involves the application of manual pressure (usually with the fingertips) to specific points on the body.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, invisible pathways of energy called meridians flow within the body. At least 14 meridians are thought to connect our organs with other parts of the body. Acupuncture and acupressure points lie along those meridians.

If the flow of energy (also called “chi” or “qi”) is blocked at any point on a meridian, it’s thought to cause various symptoms and health conditions anywhere along the meridian. That’s why a practitioner may apply pressure to an acupressure point on the foot to relieve a headache.

How Does Acupressure Work?

Acupressure practitioners use their fingers, palms, elbows or feet, or special devices to apply pressure to acupoints on the body’s meridians. Sometimes, acupressure also involves stretching or acupressure massage, as well as other methods.

During an acupressure session, you lie fully clothed on a soft massage table. The practitioner gently presses on acupressure points on your body. A session typically lasts about one hour. You may need several sessions for the best results.

There’s no consensus on how acupressure might work. Some theorize that the pressure may promote the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body, called endorphins. Another theory is that the pressure may somehow influence the autonomic nervous system.

How Does Acupressure Help?

Most people try acupressure for the first time to manage symptoms of a condition, such as:

  • Cancer-related fatigue and other forms of fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Motion sickness
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Nausea or vomiting after surgery or chemotherapy
  • Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and morning sickness
  • Stress management
  • Many symptoms of substance use withdrawal or PAWs (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) may also find relief


There’s currently a lack of studies exploring the effectiveness of acupressure. Still, some evidence suggests wrist acupressure may help relieve pain after a sports injury.  Holistic Health and Wellness providers also have implemented Acurpressure techniques into their substance use disorder clients.

In the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine in 2017,  for instance, researchers examined the effects of three minutes of acupressure, three minutes of sham acupressure, or no acupressure in athletes who had sustained a sports injury on the same day.

The study concluded that acupressure was effective in reducing pain intensity compared to sham acupressure or no acupressure. There was no change in anxiety.

A Typical Acupressure Session

Acupressure is often administered by an acupuncturist, with the person receiving the acupressure sitting or lying down on a massage table.  Acupressure can also be self-administered by using the thumb, finger, or knuckle to apply gentle but firm pressure to a point. You can also use the tip of a pen.

The pressure is often increased for about 30 seconds, held steadily for 30 seconds to two minutes, and then gradually decreased for 30 seconds. It’s typically repeated three to five times.  For example, to find the point “P6″—primarily used to treat nausea and vomiting—turn your arm palm up.  Place the thumb at the center of the wrist crease (where the hand meets the wrist), then move it two finger-widths toward the elbow. The point is between two large tendons.


Side Effects and Safety

  • Acupressure should never be painful. If you experience any pain, tell your therapist immediately. After an acupressure session, some people may feel soreness or bruising at acupressure points. You may also feel temporarily lightheaded.
  • Pressure should be gentle over fragile or sensitive areas, such as the face.
  • If you’re pregnant, talk to your care provider before trying acupressure. Acupressure typically isn’t done on the abdomen or certain points on the leg or low back during pregnancy.
  • Acupressure shouldn’t be done over open wounds, bruises, varicose veins, or any area that is bruised or swollen.
  • Talk to your doctor before trying acupressure if you have:
  • Osteoporosis
  • Recent fracture or injury
  • Cancer
  • Easy bruising
  • A bleeding disorder
  • Heart disease
  • Uncontrolled blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Prescription anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications, such as Coumadin (warfarin)

Acupressure Exercise 

Using the natural therapies of Acupressure, deep breathing, and positive thoughts, here’s a simple Self-Acupressure technique.  


  • Place your fingertips on your temples, in the hollow areas level with and just outside your eyebrows.
  • Place your thumbs on your jaw muscles, between your upper and lower jaws.
  • Press the muscle that pops out when you chew.
  • Clench your back teeth as if you were chewing, then release.

1.  When you clench your teeth, you should also feel a muscle pop out in the temple area, underneath your fingertips. You can rest your elbows on a table for support.

2.  Clench and release in a rhythmic pattern, approximately once per second. Take long, slow deep breaths. Exert steady pressure on these points with the muscle movement, coupled with the deep breathing.

3.  As you do the exercise, focus your mind on positive words, such as safe — calm — healing — peace — letting go.

4.  Continue clenching and breathing with your eyes closed for 2 or 3 minutes.

Most people find it difficult to do this for the full 3 minutes, so you can start with 1 to 2 minutes. Do what you can, and build up your timing slowly to 5 minutes a day. For instance, you may practice this exercise for 2 or 3 minutes, twice a day. For best results, practice this Acupressure exercise daily.

These Acupressure points in the temples and jaw activate areas of your brain that govern memory, concentration, mental stress, body temperature, addictions, and obsessions. They also relieve jaw pain and chronic worry.




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