Many people are turning to traditional Chinese medicine, such as acupressure and acupuncture, because of the benefits they offer, such as reducing stress, relieving pain, improving sleep and cognitive function.
Keep reading to learn more about these forms of traditional Chinese medicine.
What Is Acupressure?
Acupressure is a form of massage therapy that entails applying gentle but firm pressure to specific parts of the body. It’s practiced alongside other holistic treatment techniques, such as acupuncture, tai chi, and reiki.
Acupressure practitioners only use their feet, elbows, fingers, or palms, which is said to release blocked energy. It's also believed that adding pressure on the key points helps release endorphins, the chemicals that your body sends when you’re dealing with pain or stress.
What Is The Theory Behind Acupressure?
Acupressure focuses on special acupoints located along your body's channels or meridians. These same acupoints are also targeted by acupuncture, through which invisible energy flows.
Meridian points link a network of organs or specific organs to create a communication system across your body. The starting point of these meridian points is your fingertips, which connect your brain and organs linked to a particular meridian. If a certain meridian point is out of balance or blocked, you could get sick. Acupressure helps to restore this much-needed balance to improve your well-being.
Acupressure has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia by improving the flow of energy within the body. This, in turn, regulates and balances all the negative bodily and spiritual energy that can cause insomnia due to problems of balance and energy flow.
What Conditions Can Acupressure Treat?
More research still needs to be done to delve deeper into how acupuncture helps the human body. Most people acknowledge that acupressure does treat some health conditions, such as:
- Muscle pain
- Motion sickness
- Menstrual cramps
- Back pain
- Immune system deficiencies
In addition, acupressure is said to help cancer patients deal with the effects of chemotherapy. The different ways this treatment helps include the following:
- Lowering your stress levels
- Boosting your energy levels
- Reducing cancer symptoms
Though acupressure has been shown to be effective, there's still a lot more to understand about this approach.
How Does Acupressure Promote Better Sleep?
You can always use a buckwheat pillow to get better sleep, but if you’re struggling with insomnia, undergoing acupressure treatment will help too.
Acupressure helps improve the quality of your sleep by targeting specific pressure points. These pressure points include the following:
- Yin Tang
This point lies between your eyebrows and is also known as pressure point Extra-1. It’s positioned right at the center of your eyebrows. Applying mild pressure here helps with relaxation and stress relief.
To locate pressure point Extra-1, you need to:
- Find a comfortable standing, lying, or sitting position.
- Use your left or right hand to put pressure on the middle point of your eyebrows. You’ll easily find this position by placing your thumb on your forehead. But as you do this, don’t place the thumb on your nose’s bridge.
- Apply pressure on this point using your thumb while moving it either counterclockwise or clockwise. Continue doing this between two to three minutes.
You can do acupressure on Yin Tang several times a day until you see some improvement in your symptoms.
- Liver 3 or LR 3
Also referred to as the great surge, this position lies on your foot's upper part and between your big toe and adjacent toe. It’s usually around one inch from the web of your toes. Adding pressure to this point helps you cope with stress and manage feelings of irritability and anger. This makes LR 3 an integral point for improving your overall mental health.
- Spleen 6 Or SP 6
This point is approximately the width of three fingers over the inner ankle bone. Its exact position is on your leg’s inner part and over your ankle. You can locate Spleen 6 or ‘three yin crossing’ by finding the highest point of your ankle. After that, use four-finger widths up your leg, which is almost at the back of the bone.
Putting pressure on this acupoint helps with urinary, digestive, and gynecological issues. It helps with sleep disorders as well since it lowers stress levels and improves your emotional well-being.
- Wind Pool
This point is found on your neck’s back. You can feel the wind pool by touching the mastoid bone on the back of your ears and tracing the groove until you reach the area where your neck muscles join the skull.
Applying pressure on the wind pool helps relieve respiratory symptoms that might interfere with your sleep, such as coughing.
- Neiguan Or Heart 7
Heart 7 is found on the inner wrist, approximately one inch from the wrist crease. Applying pressure on this point not only helps treat insomnia but also addresses digestion problems and relieves anxiety—two things that make it hard to fall asleep.
So, when an acupressure practitioner applies pressure on the acupoint, you’ll feel more relaxed and enjoy quality sleep, your mind free of emotional distress.
Can You Perform Acupressure On Your Own?
Another advantage of acupressure is that you can do it yourself. Here's how:
- Find a specific acupoint using a guide diagram.
- Massage this acupoint using your index finger or thumb by applying steady and deep pressure. You should do this in an up-and-down or circular motion for one to two minutes. Be careful not to lift your finger or thumb from your skin.
- Concentrate solely on massaging the acupoint as you gently apply pressure. Make sure your eyes are closed and take deep and slow breaths.
You can repeat this method as much as you want.
What Are The Safety Measures You Should Take And The Possible Side Effects Of Acupressure?
Acupressure generally entails applying gentle pressure over specific acupoints. So, pain should be the last thing you experience with this method. If you do feel any pain, inform your therapist immediately.
Note that acupressure shouldn’t be done over certain areas of your body, such as:
- Varicose veins
- Swollen parts
- Open wounds
An acupuncture practitioner doesn’t apply pressure on certain points during pregnancy, as this may trigger the uterus to contract prematurely. These parts include the lower back, specific areas on the leg, and the abdomen.
Don’t try acupressure without consulting with your doctor, especially if you have certain conditions, like:
- Heart disease
- Easy bruising
- Bleeding disorder
If you're also using antiplatelet medication or anticoagulant, avoid acupressure.
The results of acupuncture will differ and depend on certain factors:
- Patient's age
- Severity of the condition
- Therapist's expertise level
- Underlying illness
You'll notice the results after several sessions. So, be patient and keep in mind that acupressure only helps you manage a health condition.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient healing technique that originated in China over 3,000 years ago. When the Chinese discovered how it worked on a physiological level, the practice became more accepted. Today, acupuncturists use various techniques to treat different conditions.
The most commonly used acupuncture points are located on the head, face, neck, upper back, and lower back. These points may be stimulated by using electrical impulses through a needle inserted into these areas of your body, at specific points where there are no nerves or blood vessels.
What Is The Theory Behind Acupuncture?
The practice of acupuncture is based on the idea that there are specific energy channels known as meridians in each body part. These channels form pathways for Qi. When these channels get blocked or disturbed, they can cause pain and illness. Symptoms improve when needles are inserted to stimulate the meridians.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Unlike traditional medicine, acupuncture is a holistic treatment that focuses on the entire body rather than just one ailment, making it one of the most effective methods of healing. And because it isn't invasive, it doesn't require anesthesia or IV sedation.
But how does it work? It uses thin needles to stimulate points on the body's meridians, that is, energy pathways, to promote health and wellness. The meridians are thought to carry energy from one organ or tissue to another.
When you feel unwell, an acupuncturist will carefully locate your meridian system and apply needles to these points. Your body's healing processes will then kick in, improving your health and well-being. Some people report feeling more energetic after their acupuncture sessions; others feel less stressed or anxious.
What is Acupuncture Used To Treat?
Heat therapy, such as using a cherry pit heating pad, can help treat pain. The same goes for acupuncture. In fact, many people choose acupuncture treatment to relieve chronic pain, including low back pain and arthritis.
The following are a variety of conditions that benefit from acupuncture:
- Sports injuries
- Neck pain
- Immune system complications
- Dental pain
- Labor pain
- Pregnancy discomforts
- Tennis elbow
- Respiratory disorders, for instance, allergic rhinitis
- Knee pain
- Chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea
- Cancer pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Since further study on acupuncture is still required, consult your doctor first before considering this method.
How Does Acupuncture Help Ease Anxiety And Stress?
As mentioned earlier, acupuncture helps with stress and anxiety relief. It reduces muscle tension that can lead to mental fatigue. It also stimulates specific nerve endings that send signals about pain to your brain. This is why acupuncture is so effective in relieving headaches, sore muscles, and menstrual cramps.
How Does Acupuncture Help Improve Sleep Quality?
Acupuncture improves sleep quality as well by reducing nighttime leg cramps, backaches, and other common symptoms associated with poor sleep patterns. Aside from undergoing acupuncture therapy, you can consider using an aromatherapy cushion, such as a lavender pillow, to sleep better at night.
There’s no need to make preparations before acupuncture treatment. When combined with conventional medicine, acupuncture will work well in boosting your health.
What Are The Risks Of Acupuncture?
Generally speaking, acupuncture is risk-free, and cases of severe complications are rare. However, it still comes with risks. A significant risk is experiencing infection because of unsterilized needles. So, you should confirm whether the acupuncture practitioner uses sterile needles, which need to be disposed of after single use.
Another risk is bruises or minor bleeding and soreness. This usually happens at points where the needles get inserted into your body. If you use blood thinners or suffer from blood disorders, there's an even higher risk. This is because inserting needles into your body can cause increased bleeding.
Furthermore, a practitioner may insert the needles too deep during a session. When this happens, complications with your blood vessels could occur or your gallbladder or lungs get affected. Hence, it’s important to visit a well-trained practitioner.
Should You Opt For Acupressure Or Acupuncture?
Acupressure and acupuncture are similar because they both follow the same principles. Both these forms center on Qi, which is the body's energy flow. However, they do have distinct differences.
One is that acupressure entails physically applying pressure on an affected part. You don't have to hire a therapist since you can try applying pressure on the acupoints on your own. There are a lot of tutorials and books that can guide you through the process.
In contrast, acupuncture involves the insertion of sterile and hypoallergenic needles below the skin. These needles, which must be disposable, go underneath the skin, tissue, or muscle. An acupuncturist must be a licensed and trained professional who knows how to use needles to release pressure from different acupoints.
On the downside, you'll need to pay the acupuncture practitioner, and their services aren't cheap. As a matter of fact, the cost of seeing a practitioner is almost the same as that of a licensed chiropractor or doctor.
Your choice of treatment is a matter of personal preference. A general rule of thumb is to first try acupressure because it's easy to do and affordable. If symptoms persist, you can consider acupuncture, which must be done by a professional. But it’s best to talk to your doctor first, regardless of the method you choose.
Though both acupressure and acupuncture can help you deal with various conditions, they shouldn’t be used as a substitute for other important medical care. They’re approaches best applied after primary therapies.