The Positive Benefits Of Acupressure For Full Body Relief
There are many ways to reduce stress and maintain a more healthy mental and physical state in your lives. For some, looking no further then mind-body practices such as yoga and meditation will do. However, it’s not always so simple. In this article, we discuss acupressure for stress relief as well as other potential benefits it may have on your body.
Acupressure is a well know CAM (Complementary & Alternative Medicine Therapy), that has been around for centuries. In fact, this practice has a long and rich history that dates back to ancient China.
The Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine states that, acupressure is known for its “strong reputation and reliability within many cultures to provide basic health care treatments for patients.”
Still, you may have many questions. For example, how this from of therapy may benefit you in a more modern or contemporary way.
What is Acupressure?
Before we talk about the benefits of acupressure, we discuss what acupressure is. What does it entail? Like beforementioned, acupressure is an alternative form of therapy. It originated and is still practiced in many Chinese cultures, as well in many parts of the world.
Some people mistake acupressure for acupuncture. However, these two practices are separate. Acupuncture involves using thin needles which punctures the skin in an attempt to improve blood flow to certain muscles/areas of the body.
Acupressure, on the other hand, uses touch therapy and certain pressure points to apply pressure, and aide in healing of the body. Both practices share similar beliefs, and come from traditional Chinese medicine.
Within the practice, acupressure relies on acupoints. The practitioner uses pressure from their thumb’s on certain pressure points. Thus, helps release muscular tension and balance the flow of physiological energy.
These pressure points are located along the meridians. Meridians are believed to connect various organs and tissues within the human body. Almost like an energy highway in the body.
A practitioner of acupressure will press on certain areas of the body to unblock energy, known as “chi”.
There are said to be 14 main points located in various parts of the body. The practitioner presses down on these points to unblock energy and improve various aspects of your health. These same areas are true for both acupressure and acupuncture treatments.
What Are the Benefits of Acupressure?
Several potential benefits are associated with acupressure. The body is said to have a normal flow of energy along these meridians, called “chi” or “qi”. When these pathways become blocked, energy changes.
This blockage is thought to have implications on your health. Additionally, when manual pressure is applied to certain areas of the body, it can have an impact on a completely different part of the body.
Keep in mind, this form of alternative therapy has been around for centuries. Oftentimes, practices that stand the test of time are for good reason (in our opinion). With that said, there is a lack of studies surrounding the effectiveness of this form of therapy. Specifically, exactly how it may help relieve symptoms. One of the main issues is the sample size of some of the studies we found.
1. Acupressure For Stress Relief:
One potential benefit of acupressure is stress reduction. Like with other CAM therapies, one of the main points of interest surrounds stress reduction, or reduction of it’s symptoms.
One such study from the the International Journal of Nursing Studies found that when acupressure was used as a complementary therapy for 108 patients on hemodialysis, it helped to decrease scores or see improvements in depression, anxiety, stress and general psychological distress.
This type of study can certainly be an indicator that acupressure can help or at least have a role in promoting psychological well-being. Particularly, patients going through difficult, life altering conditions.
Hence, one could theorize, it has a place in the everyday lives of individual’s dealing with stressful jobs, or situations.
2. Potential Help To Improve Your Sleep:
Stress creates tension in the body. If you’re like many, it can effect your sleep in a big way.
This is suppose to be a time to refuel, and recover from our stressful day. However for some, this is a time when they worry the most. Oftentimes, thinking endlessly about the next day, or situations they know they must make decisions about.
Likewise, let’s say your stress levels high, but you’re able to in fact, fall asleep. Even when you fall asleep your sleep cycle may become altered, effecting your overall sleep periods and quality.
Acupressure may be one of the therapies that can have an impact on getting better sleep at night. It has been shown in some studies to help reduce stress and body aches, which alternatively may help you get a better night of sleep.
Some level of acupressure you can do by yourself. Pressure points like bubbling spring, or three yin intersection, are points that you yourself can manage.
Research from a 2010 publishing out of the International Journal of Nursing Studies looked at the effectiveness of acupressure and insomnia in residents of a long term care facility. Twenty-five residents were enrolled in the experimental group. Acupressure was used in the HT7 points of the wrists, whereas the other 25 residents only received light touch in this same area.
The Athens Insomnia Scale-Taiwan form (or AIS-T) was used to evaluate the results. The experiment group showed significantly better scores, even after the 5-week intervention.
Again, this is just one study with a very small sample size. However, the importance of further research surrounding acupressure, and sleep disorders is appropriate, it seems.
3. Potential Mental Health Benefits:
Acupressure is not just looked at as a way to aid our physical bodies from stress, pain or other ailments, but it may also be an alternative therapy for our mental health. Acupressure has been shown to improve conditions like anxiety and depression in some studies. It’s been suggested that fatigue, a major symptom of both, may be reduced.
Consequently, if an individual can better manage stress, can this have a positive impact on their emotional well-being? More research in the realm of stress and acupressure, are needed. However, some of the current research points towards promising mental health outcomes when acupressure is used.
A study from a 4-week self-administered acupressure session resulted in the participants seeing a reduction in depressive moods both at 2-weeks intervention, and post intervention.
When combined or used with other complementary forms of therapies, even greater results may be achieved.
* Always speak to a licensed medical professional before altering a current regimen for mental health management. Acupressure may be a great alternative for some, but it also may not be the only treatment needed to relieve individual diagnoses.
4. Has Potential To Aide in Chronic Pain Symtoms:
Pain relief may be another potential benefit of acupressure. Many individuals suffer from some amount of chronic pain. Whether it be age related, disease process, or other traumatic incidents.
A study done in 2013 discussed findings with acupressure and it’s effects on nurses with chronic lower back pain. Data in the study was collected immediately after. Furthermore, 2 & 4-weeks after acupressure intervention sessions. The mean pain scores in the experimental group decreased significantly immediately after sessions, as well at the 2 and 4-week post intervention.
These types of studies may further indicate that acupressure may help, and prove to be a cost effective, non-invasive, low side-effect way, of reducing chronic pain.
Pain medication specifically, has also been on the rise. Adding in complementary-based therapies may help reduce frequency of use.
Oftentimes, when we discuss CAM therapies, an emphasis of intrinsic motivation comes into play. Many of these therapies take a certain amount of continued dedication to see positive results.
Practices like yoga, meditation, forms of aromatherapy and acupressure, need to become part of your daily lives to see best results.
5. Reduces Headaches and Migraines:
Headaches and migraines are often treated with acupressure. This should not come as much of a surprise, though, since acupressure may help treat chronic pain, why not short term pain-relief. Certain pressure points are said to lesson symptoms of migraines and pain relief with headaches.
You can even do this on your own, at home. There are some well known pressure points in the body believed to reduce headaches, and sinus aches. Those include union valley (for tension headaches), drilling bamboo (to reduce sinus pressure), and the Third eye point (believed to help relieve eyestrain and sinus pressure).
6. Loosens up Joints and Muscles:
Acupressure may not just unblock “chi points” in the body, it may also help loosen joints and muscles. It may not be linked to just muscle pain, but also joint-pain. Acupressure can be used in alleviating postoperative pain to help reduce the need for narcotics, like in knee joint replacement surgeries.
This form of alternative therapy can help with promoting early rehabilitation as well these sorts of procedures. A systematic review in 2011 revealed acupressure being effective for pain relief in patients with dysmenorrhea, during labor and after trauma.
More research needs to be done on the effectiveness of acupressure in other types of orthopedic or joint replacement operations. It seems evident that it should be used in conjunction with other pharmacological and rehabilitative therapies, not on it’s own, per say.
7. Potential To Help With Digestive Issues:
Acupressure may also help people with digestive issues. Digestive conditions like IBS and Crohn’s disease are partially caused by an inflamed intestinal lining.
Some people suffer from sensitive stomachs and are prone to things like gas, bloating and stomach pain.
Pressure points that can help open up these energy pathways for alleviating gas and bloating include; Zusanli (ST36) (located on the stomach meridian, which is thought to influence upper abdominal organs), Sanyinjio/SP6 (located on the spleen, said to influence lower abdominal organs), and Zhonwan or CV12 (which is said to influence the bladder and gallbladder organs).
Again, many of these pressure points (or point locations) are not necessarily located on the stomach area. However, when manipulated, are said to open up those pathways or channels of energy flow.
A systematic review in 2011, even found that acupressure was effective in managing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and individuals underdoing chemotherapy.
8. Potential To Help With Blood Circulation:
There is much more research on acupuncture and it’s potential benefits on blood flow then that of acupressure. However, due to there similarities in treatment, we touch on possible benefits here.
The main goal of this practice is to increase blood circulation throughout the body, so to open up “energy pathways”.
A study performed in 2012, actually looked at the effects of acupuncture on blood flow in humans. The blood flow images were done by non-invasive Color Doppler Imaging or (CDI).
It looked specifically at blood flow of the peripheral, mesenteric and retrobulbar arteries by CDI. Results suggested some potential benefits of acupuncture in decreased vascular resistance, and increase blood flow in patients with open angle glaucoma.
Needle Free & Cost Effective!
One of the most overlooked benefits of this treatment (if needles make you squeamish), is the fact this is needle-free. It simply uses manual pressure from a practitioners hands (or self/thumbs).
Secondly, it is relatively cost effective when compared to other forms of pain relief therapies, or medicines. Thirdly, it’s non-invasive. There is no special equipment or medications having to placed inside the body, or skin.
Acupressure is certainly a practice that needs to be further investigated and studied. Results of many of these studies are from relatively small sample sizes, and have their limitations.
However, it seems as if this type of alternative therapy can be a positive complement to other forms of therapies, or traditionally used medicine. Thus, possibly helping with post-operative rehabilitation and lessoning the amount of narcotics needed to help with chronic pain-relief.
Please share any of your personal experiences with acupressure and how it may have helped you manage symptoms of stress, anxiety, pain or other issues within your personal life.