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Acupressure is an ancient healing method from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Acupressure literally means "press points" (from Latin "acus" for "point, needle, bow" and "pressus" for "pressure"). Certain points, so-called acupuncture points, are not needled, as is customary in acupuncture, but rather pressed or massaged. The points lie on the meridians. According to TCM, these are energy channels that extend across the body.
Acupressure can be done anywhere without any aids. However, it is not advisable to simply press and massage any points in any order. In order to familiarize yourself a little with the matter, a course led by a competent therapist is recommended.
The effectiveness of acupressure has already been proven by various studies. Among other things, even self-administered acupressure had a good effect on patients with chronic back pain.
You can find an overview of important information in our short overview.
- description: Acupressure means something like "press points" and comes from traditional Chinese medicine. Pressing certain points on the skin is said to provide relief from a wide variety of ailments.
- Mode of action: Pressing or massaging the acupuncture points is supposed to dissolve blockages and bring life energy back to flow.
- Meridians: There are twelve main meridians plus two more, on which there are a total of 400 so-called acupuncture points, which are also used in acupressure.
- Contraindications: Skin changes, fungal infections, suppuration, broken bones, acute inflammation.
- How to "press" or massage: Massage, squeeze, knead or pinch the points for about 30 seconds to two minutes with light pressure without causing pain.
- application areas: For various pains, fears, sleep disorders, fatigue, constipation, menstrual disorders, relief from side effects of chemotherapy, support for smoking cessation and weight loss.
- Important rules: Do not use acupressure after eating, after drinking alcohol, when you are very tired or under pressure, the user has warm hands, short fingernails and massages the points in a concentrated and symmetrical manner on both sides of the body, do not treat if you feel unwell; Acupressure in self-treatment is almost free of risk and side effects; there are contraindications. Acupressure is also suitable for babies and children, but only very gently and with great caution.
Mode of action
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) assumes that pressing and massaging the acupuncture points or acupressure points can release blockages and bring the energy back to flowing. The word energy here refers to life energy. According to the TCM, this may be jammed or excessive, but there may also be a lack of life energy.
The acupuncture points, which are also used in acupressure, are located on the so-called meridians, the energy channels in which, according to the TCM, the Qi (pronounced: Tschi), the life energy, should flow. If the life energy is blocked, various complaints and illnesses will result according to the TCM approach. By treating the right points, these blockages are to be resolved, the life energy to flow and diseases or cures are alleviated.
According to the TCM, there are twelve main meridians and two other meridians, the "ren mai" and the "du mai"; here are a total of around 400 acupuncture points. An organ is assigned to each of the twelve main meridians, for example large intestine, spleen or small intestine. In order to know all the meridians and the associated acupuncture points, a detailed study must be completed. With acupressure, the number of points can be reduced to a few and, unlike acupuncture, it is not invasive, so it is also very suitable for self-treatment.
Moxa therapy is another form of treatment for which meridians and the associated energy points form the basis. Warmth is used to get the flow of energy moving again. Another form of therapy that uses the energy channels and also uses acupuncture points is the Tuina massage. This form of treatment, which comes from TCM, uses certain techniques that are intended to make the blocked energies flow again.
Acupressure may only be used on healthy skin. It must not be carried out on fungal infections or suppuration. It goes without saying that acupressure should not be used on broken bones or acute inflammation.
Self-treatment is not recommended during pregnancy. There is nothing to be said against targeted treatment by a trained therapist. One study even found that professionally performed acupressure can reduce labor duration and pain. However, further studies are necessary to prove this more thoroughly and to find out, for example, which points should be pressed when and for how long.
How to "press" or massage
During acupressure, the fingertip is used to massage the thumb, index finger or middle finger. But also pressing, kneading or pinching are part of it. The acupressure should not cause any pain, but a feeling of pressure or a so-called "wellbeing pain" may arise. Sometimes a pleasant feeling of warmth develops, which can be seen as positive.
The massage of one point takes approximately thirty seconds to a maximum of two minutes, whereby three to four points can be treated in succession, three to four times a day.
Slight illnesses and mental disorders are the areas of application for acupressure. Recent studies show that these can be very diverse and that acupressure is sometimes even very effective in relieving symptoms, reducing pain of various types or improving the quality of life. Examples for this are:
- a mild headache
- chronic neck and shoulder pain
- chronic back pain
- Reduction of pain after surgery
- Reduction of fears, sleep disorders and fatigue
- Improve cognitive skills in the elderly
- inner unrest
- Menstrual disorders
Acupressure can be helpful in alleviating the side effects of chemotherapy in various cancers and is even considered an important application in the treatment of shortness of breath in lung cancer patients. In addition, acupressure is very helpful in quitting smoking and can alleviate the symptoms of tobacco withdrawal.
It has good potential to support weight loss, as well as for athletes to improve joint mobility and reduce inflammation after acute exercise. But point massage is also preventive: it can be used to strengthen the immune system, for example. So far, however, this is based on observation and experience and has not been proven by scientific studies.
Acupressure should never be used immediately after eating, after drinking alcohol or when you are very tired. Time and rest are important - a massage under time pressure is contraindicated. Acupressure should take place in a relaxed atmosphere in a freshly ventilated but warm room. The hands are best warm, the fingernails not too long to prevent skin injuries.
Concentration is important. The points should always be massaged on both sides of the body (with the exception of the points on the axis of symmetry of the body). Each point is processed for thirty seconds to a maximum of two minutes. If you feel unwell, it is better to stop treatment.
One or more sessions, even over a longer period, may be necessary before the acupressure works. In the case of mild, acute complaints, one session can possibly provide relief. In scientific studies, acupressure for chronic complaints has mostly been used successfully for up to six weeks. It depends on the symptoms to be treated. In addition, not everyone reacts immediately to acupressure. Some feel immediate and immediate relief, while others take a little longer to feel an effect. It can also happen (as with any other form of therapy) that acupressure does not work at all.
Acupressure has no side effects as long as the contraindications are observed.
Acupressure is also suitable for babies and children.
In smaller children, the pressure should be very gentle and the massage of a single point should not exceed thirty seconds. The reaction to acupressure should be closely monitored in children and the massage should be stopped if necessary. The child being treated should be able to communicate if they feel unwell.
Acupressure points: a few examples
The point Di 4 (large intestine 4) is considered the master point for all kinds of pain in traditional Chinese medicine, is supposed to strengthen the immune system and help against constipation. The thumb is pressed to the side of the hand. A small muscle mountain forms in the direction of the wrist - at its highest point is the point. Caution: This point should never be massaged during pregnancy!
The acupressure point Pe 6 (Pericard 6) should be helpful for nausea, travel sickness and nausea during pregnancy (this point can also be pressed during pregnancy). The point is three fingers' width from the wrist, on the inner arm, between the two tendons. The point is pressed or massaged gently - for about a minute.
Another acupressure point, Du 26, is located on the so-called Du meridian. This begins in the middle of the body between the tip of the coccyx and the anus, then runs over the middle of the back, over the head and ends in the face between the nose and upper lip. This end point is the Du 26, which can be massaged if you feel light-headed.
The point Ni 1 (kidney 1) is intended to promote sleep and appetite. This point is on the sole of the foot and is a so-called health point. It lies between the first and second toe, in the depression between the two balls of the foot at the level between the first and second third of the sole of the foot (the toes are not included).
Pressure on the acupressure point Le 3 (liver 3) is said to calm down and help against headaches. It lies on the back of the foot between the big toe and the second toe, in a hollow just before the point where the first and second metatarsals meet.
Acupressure is described as a simple healing method that everyone can use. Learning the method, getting to know the most important and easiest to find points is a prerequisite for the application.
Knowledge about this can be acquired from books or the best thing is to take a course. A suitable therapist can also show certain acupressure points in the patient's practice, which can then be treated at home with the help of the acupressure itself. (sw, dk)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Susanne Waschke, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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