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Acupressure points and massage treatment

Acupressure is a complementary therapy using pressure points similar to those in acupuncture, but without needles.

Traditional Chinese medical theory describes special acupoints, or acupressure points, that lie along meridians, or channels, in your body. Through these invisible channels flows vital energy or a life force called qi (ch'i). It is also believed that these 12 major meridians connect specific organs or networks of organs, organising a system of communication throughout your body. The meridians begin at your fingertips, connect to your brain, and then connect to an organ associated with a certain meridian.

According to theory, when one of these meridians is blocked or out of balance, illness can occur. Acupressure and acupuncture are among the types of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that are used to help restore balance. Herbal and nutritional therapy, meditation, and therapeutic massage may also help.

How does acupressure work?

Acupressure practitioners use their fingers, palms, elbows or feet, or special devices to apply pressure to acupoints along the body's meridians. Sometimes, acupressure also involves stretching or acupressure massage as well as other methods.

During an acupressure session, you lie fully clothed on a soft massage table. The practitioner gently presses on acupressure points on your body. A session typically lasts about one hour. You may need several sessions for the best results.

The goal of acupressure is to restore health and balance to the body's channels of energy and to regulate opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy). Some proponents claim acupressure not only treats the energy fields and body but also the mind, emotions, and spirit. Some even believe that therapists can transmit the vital energy (external qi) to another person.

Not all Western practitioners believe that this is possible or even that these meridians exist. Instead, they attribute any results to other factors, such as reduced muscle tension, improved circulation, or stimulation of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.

What are commonly used acupuncture points?

There are literally hundreds of acupuncture points on the body -- too many to name. Here are three that are commonly used and that you can massage yourself.

  • Large intestine 4 (LI4): This is in the soft, fleshy web between your thumb and forefinger.
  • Liver 3 (LR-3): This is in the soft flesh that sits between your big and 2nd toes. It's an area similar to LI4.
  • Spleen 6 (SP-6): This is about three finger widths above your inner anklebone. It is a tender area of the lower calf muscle.

You can try massaging these points with your fingers and thumbs for a few minutes once or twice a day, several times a week. You should feel some tenderness or a dull achy sensation when you apply pressure.

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