Acupressure is thought to be one of the oldest healing traditions in the world. The Chinese are credited with having discovered that pressure on specific points of the body could relieve common ailments and discomforts. As far back as 300 B.C. there is mention of Acupressure in Chinese medical texts, as it came to be widely adopted as a self-help and first aid technique for lay people, as well as an important part of massage therapy for professional physicians.
Acupressure is based on the concept of chi (sometimes spelled 'qi'), defined in Chinese medicine as an essential life force that flows through the body, circulating through invisible passageways called meridians. The movements, or flow, of chi is said to vary with the mental, physical, and spiritual changes of daily living. According to this theory, when chi flows freely and evenly, harmony and good health are possible; however, if chi circulation is stagnant, over stimulated, or unbalanced, illness is likely.
The invisible meridians carrying chi are said to reside within the body's interior. However, there are specific places on the skin, called acupoints, where chi may be accessed and guided using deep, focused finger pressure. By improving chi circulation, practitioners encourage the harmonious equilibrium of mind and body believed to be essential for physical and spiritual health. Once this internal harmony is achieved, the body is able to invoke its self-healing capabilities.
THE PRACTICE OF ACUPRESSURE
An acupressure practitioner has to learn how to locate the acupoints accurately and to determine the correct ones to use for different ailments. Gentle pressure is applied using the tips of the index or middle fingers, or the thumb or the edge of the nail. Pressure must be even and is generally applied in the direction of flow of the meridian.
Small rotations may be used to stimulate the flow of energy within the meridian and promote circulation. Alternatively pressure may be applied using small wooden sticks with rounded ends for single acupoints or rollers for covering several points at once, say on the back.
Treatment lasts from half a minute for small babies to several minutes for adults. The acupoints are massaged on both sides of the body, and the procedure is repeated several times during the day. Acupressure is safe and easy to perform and can be used as a self-help therapy as well as an adjunct to treatment by professionals. In some cases the effects may be immediate, such as acupressure applied to points at the base of the nostrils that can clear a blocked nose almost instantaneously. In other cases, the results may be slower, since acupressure can be used on a daily basis to treat more chronic conditions.
HOW CAN ACUPRESSURE HELP?
Acupressure can be used to relieve common ailments such as headaches, back pain, fatigue, constipation, and so on. It is also useful for prevention of illness and for first aid, for example, in the case of asthma where it has been known to reduce the frequency and decrease the severity of attacks. To be most effective it has to be repeated little and often and be used on a daily basis.
If you have a serious illness, ask your doctor before using acupressure. Never press on an open wound, swollen or inflamed skin, bruises, varicose veins, or a lump. Avoid sites of recent surgery and sites of a suspected bone injury. If you have atherosclerosis, avoid direct pressure on the carotid arteries. If you are pregnant, avoid pressure to the lower abdomen, and don't use points spleen 6 or large intestine 4 (some believe these points can induce miscarriage).