You may have heard of acupuncture and acupressure, two treatments that are touted by holistic medicine practitioners to address a variety of health conditions. Both procedures have their roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), where they’ve been used for thousands of years. That said, there are some key differences between the two procedures. We’ll explain how they work, as well as highlight the difference between acupressure and acupuncture.
TCM is based on the concept of qi, “the vital energy that circulates through the body at all times,” according to Medical News Today. Practitioners believe that qi moves through the body along meridians, or pathways, and that health issues arise when those meridians are blocked.
Acupuncture and acupressure are procedures that stimulate the body in specific points along those meridians. These points are called acupoints, and by stimulating them, practitioners believe that blockages in qi will be corrected. Once the patient’s qi is flowing freely, practitioners believe their symptoms will dissipate, according to another article by Medical News Today.
While acupuncture and acupressure both stimulate the body’s acupoints, they use different methods. If you’re curious about how they vary, or if you’re considering booking one of these treatments, read on for our explanation of the difference between acupressure and acupuncture.
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The Main Difference Between the Two Procedures
While acupressure and acupuncture are both techniques that aim to stimulate acupoints, the two procedures vary in how the stimulation occurs. In acupuncture, ultra-thin needles are inserted into the patient’s skin, while acupressure uses massage and manual pressure to stimulate the same areas.
Acupressure Can Be Performed on Oneself
Another difference between the two procedures is that acupressure can be self-administered. That makes it useful for immediate relief of milder symptoms. The Mayo Clinic lists self-massage and self-acupressure as one of its self-care approaches to treating pain. UCLA and Healthline both created guides for self-administering acupressure, so next time you have a headache or are experiencing pain, it might be worth giving it a try.
That said, if your pain is chronic or severe, you’ll get optimum results from visiting a professional. Self-administering can help relieve immediate symptoms before your session, while booking regular visits with a trained acupressure practitioner can address the underlying causes more effectively.
The History of Acupuncture
Acupuncture has been practiced in China for thousands of years, but it’s practice in the West is a relatively new phenomenon. According to an Oxford University Press timeline, the roots of acupuncture date back to 6,000 BCE in China. It wasn’t until 1680 AD, however, that the first European physician wrote about the procedure. Nearly three centuries later, in 1912, it was formally recognized by the respected Canadian physician Sir William Osler, paving the way for more widespread acceptance in the Western medical community.
Acupuncture wasn’t introduced to US audiences until 1971, according to Oxford University, when an American journalist in China was treated with the procedure. He described the experience in a New York Times article that prompted American doctors to begin studying acupuncture. In 1997, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) published research that formally affirmed the practice’s clinical benefits, and the popularity of acupuncture worldwide has continued to grow.
The History of Acupressure
While acupressure is informed by the same TCM concept of qi, it’s history is a little broader. It shares the same ancient history as acupuncture, and it was adopted in the West along a similar timeline. That said, there are a variety of other medical traditions that incorporate massage or manual pressure to relieve pain and discomfort. In Japan, shiatsu is a form of acupressure that dates back to the 1920s, and in India, Ayurvedic massage has been practiced for thousands of years. While acupuncture is specific to TCM, a variety of cultures have used massage to treat energy blockages and alleviate health symptoms.
Uses of Acupuncture
Because many people in the West are more familiar with acupuncture than acupressure, there’s a wider body of Western medical research to back up the health claims practitioners make. Specifically, it’s been been studied extensively for its use treating back and neck pain, knee pain, joint pain in older patients more broadly, and headaches, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Western medicine is just catching up to the many potential benefits of acupuncture. More research is still necessary to evaluate its effectiveness for a wide variety of other health conditions that practitioners believe it can benefit.
Uses of Acupressure
Acupressure research is still in its early phases, although like acupuncture, most of the studies demonstrate its effectiveness in treating forms of pain. NIH research found that acupressure is effective for treating neck pain. Wrist acupressure can help relieve nausea and vomiting, as well as menstrual pain and cramping, according to Science Direct.
Things to Remember
When practiced properly, acupuncture and acupressure have few complications. That said, performing acupuncture improperly can have adverse side effects, which is why it’s crucial to check the credentials of any provider you book with. For ultimate peace of mind, read the Booksy reviews of the practitioner you choose, and check their website for information about their training and experience.