What is Acupressure?

What is Acupressure?

Acupressure is a form of Chinese traditional medicine that aims to promote health and wellness by applying manual pressure to specific energy points on the patient’s body. It differs from acupuncture in that no needles or puncturing of the skin is involved in acupressure. The practice is rooted in the belief that the body has “invisible lines of energy flow called meridians” that connect our organs with other parts of our body, according to Very Well HealthProponents believe that if a person’s energy is blocked at any point along that path, health issues and symptoms could arise at any point along the meridian.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) formally acknowledged Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in May of this year, according to CNN
  • According to WebMDthere are hundreds of acupuncture points along the body, but three of the most commonly used are: Large Intestine 4 (LI-4), located between your thumb and forefinger; Liver 3 (LR-3), located on your foot between your big toe and the smaller toe; and Spleen 6 (SP-6), above your inner ankle bone
  • While acupressure originated in China, a Japanese variant called shiatsu also utilizes the acupuncture points of TCM. It evolved from anma, a Japanese style of massage that dates back to the 1300s, according to TraditionalBodyWork.com
  • Acupressure has even been used as a beauty treatment, meant to “enhance muscle tone and improve circulation” of the facial muscles, according to the website of Dr. Andrew Weil, MD

According to practitioners, acupressure can provide relief in a variety of contextsVery Well Health cites the practice for managing the symptoms of a variety of conditions, “such as cancer-related fatigue, headaches, menstrual cramps, motion sickness, muscle tension and painnausea or vomiting after surgery or chemotherapy, nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and morning sickness, and stress management.”


Some historians believe that acupressure dates back even further than acupuncture, and may have been developed sometime around 2000 BC in China, according to Encyclopedia.com. The Systemic Classic of Acupuncture, the first clinical textbook on acupuncture, wasn’t published until the third century BC, according to Goodreads. Acupuncture and acupressure are both part of a range of traditional medicines that include herbal remedies, physical activity in the form of qigong, massage, cupping and other practices that are meant to maintain a healthy and balanced body.

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Acupressure is a part of traditional medicine practices developed in China

A Typical Session

During a typical acupressure session, patients lie fully clothed on a massage table, and according to WebMD, “practitioners use their fingers, palms, elbows or feet, or special devices to apply pressure to acupoints on the body’s meridians.” The practitioner will press on the acupuncture point in order to facilitate the flow of energy, and the process usually lasts around an hour.

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It is also possible to self-administer acupressure. While the expertise of a skilled practitioner is helpful in many cases, you can look up specific acupressure points online and apply pressure with a thumb, finger or knuckle, according to Very Well Health.

Research Is in Its Early Stages

While there’s a wealth of scientific literature pointing to the health benefits of acupuncture, acupressure has received less formal attention from the scientific community. WebMd cites several studies that support the use of wrist acupressure to prevent and treat nausea and vomitingbut more evidence is necessary in order to determine whether it’s a viable treatment option for a range of other symptoms.

There is, however, plenty of anecdotal evidence that it helps alleviate other health issues and contributes to pain management. You can even find a list of acupressure points to help with headaches here. As alternative medicine gains more widespread attention from the Western medical community, including the May 2019 WHO acknowledgment, many proponents hope that more scientific research will validate what they’ve already experienced.

While the benefits of acupressure are still being studied, the benefits of touch are well documented.

Benefits of Touch

While research into the benefits of acupressure are in their early stages, the emotional and physical benefits of human touch are well-documented. Dr. Tiffany Field found that consistent human touch helped premature babies quickly gain weight, according to a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics. In later studies, she’s demonstrated the importance of human touch for “children and pregnant women, adults with chronic pain, and people in retirement homes,” as reported in the Atlantic

While research on acupressure is still in its early stages, the importance of human touch is well-documented. Acupressure presents a unique opportunity to take advantage of these research-backed benefits while also tapping into the millennia-old tradition of acupuncture and energy medicine. If you’re currently experiencing nausea, chronic pain, cramps, motion sickness, muscle tension, or a variety of other symptoms, acupressure could be a useful tool. AlternativesForHealing.com has a directory of recommended acupressure practitioners. For UK-based patients, FindTherapy.org has a list of resources, as well as TherapyDirectory.org.

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