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Acupressure

Acupressure

Definition

Acupressure is a form of touch therapy that utilizes the principles of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. In acupressure, the same points on the body are used as in acupuncture, but are stimulated with finger pressure instead of with the insertion of needles. Acupressure is used to relieve a variety of symptoms and pain.

Origins

One of the oldest text of Chinese medicine is the Huang Di, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, which may be at least 2,000 years old. Chinese medicine has developed acupuncture, acupressure, herbal remedies, diet, exercise , lifestyle changes, and other remedies as part of its healing methods. Nearly all of the forms of Oriental medicine that are used in the West today, including acupuncture, acupressure, shiatsu , and Chinese herbal medicine, have their roots in Chinese medicine. One legend has it that acupuncture and acupressure evolved as early Chinese healers studied the puncture wounds of Chinese warriors, noting that certain points on the body created interesting results when stimulated. The oldest known text specifically on acupuncture points, the Systematic Classic of Acupuncture, dates back to 282 a.d. Acupressure is the non-invasive form of acupuncture, as Chinese physicians determined that stimulating points on the body with massage and pressure could be effective for treating certain problems.

Outside of Asian-American communities, Chinese medicine remained virtually unknown in the United States until the 1970s, when Richard Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit China. On Nixon's trip, journalists were amazed to observe major operations being performed on patients without the use of anesthetics. Instead, wide-awake patients were being operated on, with only acupuncture needles inserted into them to control pain. At that time, a famous columnist for the New York Times, James Reston, had to undergo surgery and elected to use acupuncture for anesthesia. Later, he wrote some convincing stories on its effectiveness. Despite being neglected by mainstream medicine and the American Medical Association (AMA), acupuncture and Chinese medicine became a central to alternative medicine practitioners in the United States. Today, there are millions of patients who attest to its effectiveness, and nearly 9,000 practitioners in all 50 states.

Acupressure is practiced as a treatment by Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists, as well as by massage therapists. Most massage schools in American include acupressure techniques as part of their bodywork programs. Shiatsu massage is very closely related to acupressure, working with the same points on the body and the same general principles, although it was developed over centuries in Japan rather than in China. Reflexology is a form of bodywork based on acupressure concepts. Jin Shin Do is a bodywork technique with an increasing number of practitioners in America that combines acupressure and shiatsu principles with qigong , Reichian theory, and meditation .

Benefits

Acupressure massage performed by a therapist can be very effective both as prevention and as a treatment for many health conditions, including headaches, general aches and pains, colds and flu, arthritis, allergies, asthma , nervous tension, menstrual cramps, sinus problems, sprains, tennis elbow , and toothaches, among others. Unlike acupuncture which requires a visit to a professional, acupressure can be performed by a layperson. Acupressure techniques are fairly easy to learn, and have been used to provide quick, cost-free, and effective relief from many symptoms. Acupressure points can also be stimulated to increase energy and feelings of well-being, reduce stress , stimulate the immune system, and alleviate sexual dysfunction .

Description

Acupressure and Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine views the body as a small part of the universe, subject to laws and principles of harmony and balance. Chinese medicine does not make as sharp a destinction as Western medicine does between mind and body. The Chinese system believes that emotions and mental states are every bit as influential on disease as purely physical mechanisms, and considers factors like work, environment, and relationships as fundamental to a patient's health. Chinese medicine also uses very different symbols and ideas to discuss the body and health. While Western medicine typically describes health as mainly physical processes composed of chemical equations and reactions, the Chinese use ideas like yin and yang, chi, and the organ system to describe health and the body.

Everything in the universe has properties of yin and yang. Yin is associated with cold, female, passive, downward, inward, dark, wet. Yang can be described as hot, male, active, upward, outward, light, dry, and so on. Nothing is either completely yin or yang. These two principles always interact and affect each other, although the body and its organs can become imbalanced by having either too much or too little of either.

Chi (pronounced chee, also spelled qi or ki in Japanese shiatsu) is the fundamental life energy. It is found in food, air, water , and sunlight, and it travels through the body in channels called meridians. There are 12 major meridians in the body that transport chi, corresponding to the 12 main organs categorized by Chinese medicine.

Disease is viewed as an imbalance of the organs and chi in the body. Chinese medicine has developed intricate systems of how organs are related to physical and mental symptoms, and it has devised corresponding treatments using the meridian and pressure point networks that are classified and numbered. The goal of acupressure, and acupuncture, is to stimulate and unblock the circulation of chi, by activating very specific points, called pressure points or acupoints. Acupressure seeks to stimulate the points on the chi meridians that pass close to the skin, as these are easiest to unblock and manipulate with finger pressure.

Acupressure can be used as part of a Chinese physician's prescription, as a session of massage therapy , or as a self-treatment for common aches and illnesses. A Chinese medicine practitioner examines a patient very thoroughly, looking at physical, mental and emotional activity, taking the pulse usually at the wrists, examining the tongue and complexion, and observing the patient's demeanor and attitude, to get a complete diagnosis of which organs and meridian points are out of balance. When the imbalance is located, the physician will recommend specific pressure points for acupuncture or acupressure. If acupressure is recommended, the patient might opt for a series of treatments from a massage therapist.

In massage therapy, acupressurists will evaluate a patient's symptoms and overall health, but a massage therapist's diagnostic training isn't as extensive as a Chinese physician's. In a massage therapy treatment, a person usually lies down on a table or mat, with thin clothing on. The acupressurist will gently feel and palpate the abdomen and other parts of the body to determine energy imbalances. Then, the therapist will work with different meridians throughout the body, depending on which organs are imbalanced in the abdomen. The therapist will use different types of finger movements and pressure on different acupoints, depending on whether the chi needs to be increased or dispersed at different points. The therapist observes and guides the energy flow through the patient's body throughout the session. Sometimes, special herbs (Artemesia vulgaris or moxa) may be placed on a point to warm it, a process called moxibustion. A session of acupressure is generally a very pleasant experience, and some people experience great benefit immediately. For more chronic conditions, several sessions may be necessary to relieve and improve conditions.

Acupressure massage usually costs from $3070 per hour session. A visit to a Chinese medicine physician or acupuncturist can be more expensive, comparable to a visit to an allopathic physician if the practitioner is an MD. Insurance reimbursement varies widely, and consumers should be aware if their policies cover alternative treatment, acupuncture, or massage therapy.

Self-treatment

Acupressure is easy to learn, and there are many good books that illustrate the position of acupoints and meridians on the body. It is also very versatile, as it can be done anywhere, and it's a good form of treatment for spouses and partners to give to each other and for parents to perform on children for minor conditions.

While giving self-treatment or performing acupressure on another, a mental attitude of calmness and attention is important, as one person's energy can be used to help another's. Loose, thin clothing is recommended. There are three general techniques for stimulating a pressure point.

  • Tonifying is meant to strengthen weak chi, and is done by pressing the thumb or finger into an acupoint with a firm, steady pressure, holding it for up to two minutes.
  • Dispersing is meant to move stagnant or blocked chi, and the finger or thumb is moved in a circular motion or slightly in and out of the point for two minutes.
  • Calming the chi in a pressure point utilizes the palm to cover the point and gently stroke the area for about two minutes.

There are many pressure points that are easily found and memorized to treat common ailments from headaches to colds.

  • For headaches, toothaches, sinus problems, and pain in the upper body, the "LI4" point is recommended. It is located in the web between the thumb and index finger, on the back of the hand. Using the thumb and index finger of the other hand, apply a pinching pressure until the point is felt, and hold it for two minutes. Pregnant women should never press this point.
  • To calm the nerves and stimulate digestion, find the "CV12" point that is four thumb widths above the navel in the center of the abdomen. Calm the point with the palm, using gentle stroking for several minutes.
  • To stimulate the immune system, find the "TH5" point on the back of the forearm two thumb widths above the wrist. Use a dispersing technique, or circular pressure with the thumb or finger, for two minutes on each arm.
  • For headaches, sinus congestion, and tension, locate the "GB20" points at the base of the skull in the back of the head, just behind the bones in back of the ears. Disperse these points for two minutes with the fingers or thumbs. Also find the "yintang" point, which is in the middle of the forehead between the eyebrows. Disperse it with gentle pressure for two minutes to clear the mind and to relieve headaches.

Precautions

Acupressure is a safe technique, but it is not meant to replace professional health care. A physician should always be consulted when there are doubts about medical conditions. If a condition is chronic, a professional should be consulted; purely symptomatic treatment can exacerbate chronic conditions. Acupressure should not be applied to open wounds, or where there is swelling and inflammation. Areas of scar tissue, blisters, boils, rashes , or varicose veins should be avoided. Finally, certain acupressure points should not be stimulated on people with high or low blood pressure and on pregnant women.

Research & general acceptance

In general, Chinese medicine has been slow to gain acceptance in the West, mainly because it rests on ideas very foreign to the scientific model. For instance, Western scientists have trouble with the idea of chi, the invisible energy of the body, and the idea that pressing on certain points can alleviate certain conditions seems sometimes too simple for scientists to believe.

Western scientists, in trying to account for the action of acupressure, have theorized that chi is actually part of the neuroendocrine system of the body. Celebrated orthopedic surgeon Robert O. Becker, who was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize, wrote a book on the subject called Cross Currents: The Promise of Electromedicine; The Perils of Electropollution. By using precise electrical measuring devices, Becker and his colleagues showed that the body has a complex web of electromagnetic energy, and that traditional acupressure meridians and points contained amounts of energy that non-acupressure points did not.

The mechanisms of acupuncture and acupressure remain difficult to document in terms of the biochemical processes involved; numerous testimonials are the primary evidence backing up the effectiveness of acupressure and acupuncture. However, a body of research is growing that verifies the effectiveness in acupressure and acupuncture techniques in treating many problems and in controlling pain.

Training & certification

There are two routes to becoming trained in the skill of acupressure. The first is training in traditional acupuncture and Chinese medicine, which has many schools and certifying bodies around the country. The majority of acupressure practitioners are trained as certified massage therapists, either as acupressure or shiatsu specialists.

The Acupressure Institute provides certification and resources for acupressure practitioners. Address: 1533 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709, (800) 442-2232 or (510) 845-1059, http://www.acupressure.com.

The American Oriental Bodywork Therapy Association (AOBTA) certifies acupressure practitioners and has over 1,400 members. It also provides a list of schools and training programs. Address: 1010 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, Suite 408, Voorhees, NJ 08043, phone (856) 782-1616, email: [email protected] ttp://222.aobta.org

The Jin Shin Do Foundation for Body/Mind Acupressure is an international network of teachers and practitioners. Address: P.O. Box 416, Idyllwild, CA 92549. phone: (909) 659-5707

The largest organization that certifies massage therapists, with over 40,000 members worldwide, is the American Massage Therapy Association. It also has a member directory and lists of training programs. Web-site: www.amtamassage.org.

Resources

BOOKS

Jarmey, Chris and John Tindall. Acupressure for Common Ailments. London: Gaia, 1991.

Kakptchuk, Ted. The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. New York: Congdon and Weed, 1983.

Warren, Frank Z., MD. Freedom From Pain Through Acupressure. New York: Fell, 1976.

PERIODICALS

Massage Therapy Journal. 820 Davis Street, Suite 100, Evanston, IL 60201-4444.

OTHER

American Association of Oriental Medicine. http://www.aaom.org/ (December 28, 2000).

National Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance. http://www.acuall.org/ (December 28, 2000).

Douglas Dupler

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Acupressure

Acupressure

Definition

Acupressure is a form of touch therapy that utilizes the principles of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. In acupressure, the same points on the body are used as in acupuncture, but are stimulated with finger pressure instead of with the insertion of needles. Acupressure is used to relieve a variety of symptoms and pain.

Purpose

Acupressure massage performed by a therapist can be very effective both as prevention and as a treatment for many health conditions, including headaches, general aches and pains, colds and flu, arthritis, allergies, asthma, nervous tension, menstrual cramps, sinus problems, sprains, tennis elbow, and toothaches, among others. Unlike acupuncture which requires a visit to a professional, acupressure can be performed by a layperson. Acupressure techniques are fairly easy to learn, and have been used to provide quick, cost-free, and effective relief from many symptoms. Acupressure points can also be stimulated to increase energy and feelings of well-being, reduce stress, stimulate the immune system, and alleviate sexual dysfunction.

Description

Origins

One of the oldest text of Chinese medicine is the Huang Di, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, which may be at least 2,000 years old. Chinese medicine has developed acupuncture, acupressure, herbal remedies, diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, and other remedies as part of its healing methods. Nearly all of the forms of Oriental medicine that are used in the West today, including acupuncture, acupressure, shiatsu, and Chinese herbal medicine, have their roots in Chinese medicine. One legend has it that acupuncture and acupressure evolved as early Chinese healers studied the puncture wounds of Chinese warriors, noting that certain points on the body created interesting results when stimulated. The oldest known text specifically on acupuncture points, the Systematic Classic of Acupuncture, dates back to 282 a.d. Acupressure is the non-invasive form of acupuncture, as Chinese physicians determined that stimulating points on the body with massage and pressure could be effective for treating certain problems.

Outside of Asian-American communities, Chinese medicine remained virtually unknown in the United States until the 1970s, when Richard Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit China. On Nixon's trip, journalists were amazed to observe major operations being performed on patients without the use of anesthetics. Instead, wide-awake patients were being operated on, with only acupuncture needles inserted into them to control pain. At that time, a famous columnist for the New York Times, James Reston, had to undergo surgery and elected to use acupuncture for anesthesia. Later, he wrote some convincing stories on its effectiveness. Despite being neglected by mainstream medicine and the American Medical Association (AMA), acupuncture and Chinese medicine became a central to alternative medicine practitioners in the United States. Today, there are millions of patients who attest to its effectiveness, and nearly 9,000 practitioners in all 50 states.

Acupressure is practiced as a treatment by Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists, as well as by massage therapists. Most massage schools in American include acupressure techniques as part of their bodywork programs. Shiatsu massage is very closely related to acupressure, working with the same points on the body and the same general principles, although it was developed over centuries in Japan rather than in China. Reflexology is a form of bodywork based on acupressure concepts. Jin Shin Do is a bodywork technique with an increasing number of practitioners in America that combines acupressure and shiatsu principles with qigong, Reichian theory, and meditation.

Acupressure and Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine views the body as a small part of the universe, subject to laws and principles of harmony and balance. Chinese medicine does not make as sharp a destinction as Western medicine does between mind and body. The Chinese system believes that emotions and mental states are every bit as influential on disease as purely physical mechanisms, and considers factors like work, environment, and relationships as fundamental to a patient's health. Chinese medicine also uses very different symbols and ideas to discuss the body and health. While Western medicine typically describes health as mainly physical processes composed of chemical equations and reactions, the Chinese use ideas like yin and yang, chi, and the organ system to describe health and the body.

Everything in the universe has properties of yin and yang. Yin is associated with cold, female, passive, downward, inward, dark, wet. Yang can be described as hot, male, active, upward, outward, light, dry, and so on. Nothing is either completely yin or yang. These two principles always interact and affect each other, although the body and its organs can become imbalanced by having either too much or too little of either.

Chi (pronounced chee, also spelled qi or ki in Japanese shiatsu) is the fundamental life energy. It is found in food, air, water, and sunlight, and it travels through the body in channels called meridians. There are 12 major meridians in the body that transport chi, corresponding to the 12 main organs categorized by Chinese medicine.

KEY TERMS

Acupoint A pressure point stimulated in acupressure.

Chi Basic life energy.

Meridian A channel through which chi travels in the body.

Moxibustion An acupuncture technique that burns the herb moxa or mugwort.

Shiatsu Japanese form of acupressure massage.

Yin/yang Universal characteristics used to describe aspects of the natural world.

Disease is viewed as an imbalance of the organs and chi in the body. Chinese medicine has developed intricate systems of how organs are related to physical and mental symptoms, and it has devised corresponding treatments using the meridian and pressure point networks that are classified and numbered. The goal of acupressure, and acupuncture, is to stimulate and unblock the circulation of chi, by activating very specific points, called pressure points or acupoints. Acupressure seeks to stimulate the points on the chi meridians that pass close to the skin, as these are easiest to unblock and manipulate with finger pressure.

Acupressure can be used as part of a Chinese physician's prescription, as a session of massage therapy, or as a self-treatment for common aches and illnesses. A Chinese medicine practitioner examines a patient very thoroughly, looking at physical, mental and emotional activity, taking the pulse usually at the wrists, examining the tongue and complexion, and observing the patient's demeanor and attitude, to get a complete diagnosis of which organs and meridian points are out of balance. When the imbalance is located, the physician will recommend specific pressure points for acupuncture or acupressure. If acupressure is recommended, the patient might opt for a series of treatments from a massage therapist.

In massage therapy, acupressurists will evaluate a patient's symptoms and overall health, but a massage therapist's diagnostic training isn't as extensive as a Chinese physician's. In a massage therapy treatment, a person usually lies down on a table or mat, with thin clothing on. The acupressurist will gently feel and palpate the abdomen and other parts of the body to determine energy imbalances. Then, the therapist will work with different meridians throughout the body, depending on which organs are imbalanced in the abdomen. The therapist will use different types of finger movements and pressure on different acupoints, depending on whether the chi needs to be increased or dispersed at different points. The therapist observes and guides the energy flow through the patient's body throughout the session. Sometimes, special herbs (Artemesia vulgaris or moxa) may be placed on a point to warm it, a process called moxibustion. A session of acupressure is generally a very pleasant experience, and some people experience great benefit immediately. For more chronic conditions, several sessions may be necessary to relieve and improve conditions.

Acupressure massage usually costs from $30-70 per hour session. A visit to a Chinese medicine physician or acupuncturist can be more expensive, comparable to a visit to an allopathic physician if the practitioner is an MD. Insurance reimbursement varies widely, and consumers should be aware if their policies cover alternative treatment, acupuncture, or massage therapy.

Self-treatment

Acupressure is easy to learn, and there are many good books that illustrate the position of acupoints and meridians on the body. It is also very versatile, as it can be done anywhere, and it's a good form of treatment for spouses and partners to give to each other and for parents to perform on children for minor conditions.

While giving self-treatment or performing acupressure on another, a mental attitude of calmness and attention is important, as one person's energy can be used to help another's. Loose, thin clothing is recommended. There are three general techniques for stimulating a pressure point.

  • Tonifying is meant to strengthen weak chi, and is done by pressing the thumb or finger into an acupoint with a firm, steady pressure, holding it for up to two minutes.
  • Dispersing is meant to move stagnant or blocked chi, and the finger or thumb is moved in a circular motion or slightly in and out of the point for two minutes.
  • Calming the chi in a pressure point utilizes the palm to cover the point and gently stroke the area for about two minutes.

There are many pressure points that are easily found and memorized to treat common ailments from headaches to colds.

  • For headaches, toothaches, sinus problems, and pain in the upper body, the "LI4" point is recommended. It is located in the web between the thumb and index finger, on the back of the hand. Using the thumb and index finger of the other hand, apply a pinching pressure until the point is felt, and hold it for two minutes. Pregnant women should never press this point.
  • To calm the nerves and stimulate digestion, find the "CV12" point that is four thumb widths above the navel in the center of the abdomen. Calm the point with the palm, using gentle stroking for several minutes.
  • To stimulate the immune system, find the "TH5" point on the back of the forearm two thumb widths above the wrist. Use a dispersing technique, or circular pressure with the thumb or finger, for two minutes on each arm.
  • For headaches, sinus congestion, and tension, locate the "GB20" points at the base of the skull in the back of the head, just behind the bones in back of the ears. Disperse these points for two minutes with the fingers or thumbs. Also find the "yintang" point, which is in the middle of the forehead between the eyebrows. Disperse it with gentle pressure for two minutes to clear the mind and to relieve headaches.

Precautions

Acupressure is a safe technique, but it is not meant to replace professional health care. A physician should always be consulted when there are doubts about medical conditions. If a condition is chronic, a professional should be consulted; purely symptomatic treatment can exacerbate chronic conditions. Acupressure should not be applied to open wounds, or where there is swelling and inflammation. Areas of scar tissue, blisters, boils, rashes, or varicose veins should be avoided. Finally, certain acupressure points should not be stimulated on people with high or low blood pressure and on pregnant women.

Research and general acceptance

In general, Chinese medicine has been slow to gain acceptance in the West, mainly because it rests on ideas very foreign to the scientific model. For instance, Western scientists have trouble with the idea of chi, the invisible energy of the body, and the idea that pressing on certain points can alleviate certain conditions seems sometimes too simple for scientists to believe.

Western scientists, in trying to account for the action of acupressure, have theorized that chi is actually part of the neuroendocrine system of the body. Celebrated orthopedic surgeon Robert O. Becker, who was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize, wrote a book on the subject called Cross Currents: The Promise of Electromedicine; The Perils of Electropollution. By using precise electrical measuring devices, Becker and his colleagues showed that the body has a complex web of electromagnetic energy, and that traditional acupressure meridians and points contained amounts of energy that non-acupressure points did not.

The mechanisms of acupuncture and acupressure remain difficult to document in terms of the biochemical processes involved; numerous testimonials are the primary evidence backing up the effectiveness of acupressure and acupuncture. However, a body of research is growing that verifies the effectiveness in acupressure and acupuncture techniques in treating many problems and in controlling pain.

Resources

PERIODICALS

Massage Therapy Journal. 820 Davis Street, Suite100, Evanston, IL 60201-4444.

OTHER

American Association of Oriental Medicine.December 28, 2000. http://www.aaom.org.

National Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance. December 28, 2000. http://www.acuall.org.

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Acupressure

Acupressure

A form of body work which, as the name implies, is based in acupuncture. Acupuncturists apply pressure to the designated points on the body with the hand rather than using needles. A popular practice in Japan, it was severely restricted by laws against massage in the nineteenth century. That law was repealed in 1955. As acupressure revived, it found a receptive audience in the West. Acupressure is similar to but distinct from other body techniques like do-in and shiatsu. For further information, contact the Acupressure Institute, 1533 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709.

In the 1970s, Michael Reed Gach developed a variation on acupressure that he termed acu-yoga. It combines acupressure with hatha yoga. Individuals are taught to apply pressure on the points while assuming various yoga positions.

Sources:

Cerney, J. V. Acupressure: Acupuncture without Needles. West Nyack, N.Y.: Parker Publishing, 1974.

Chan, Pedro. Finger Acupressure. New York: Ballantine Books, 1975.

Gach, Michael Reed. Acu-yoga: Self Help Techniques. Tokyo: Japan Publications, 1981.

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acupressure

ac·u·pres·sure / ˈakyəˌprəshər/ • n. another term for shiatsu.

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acupressure

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Acupressure

Acupressure

Definition

Acupressure is a form of touch therapy that utilizes the principles of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. In acupressure, the same points on the body are used as in acupuncture, but are stimulated with finger pressure instead of with the insertion of needles. Acupressure is used to relieve a variety of symptoms and pain.

Origins

One of the oldest text of Chinese medicine is the Huang Di, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, which may be at least 2,000 years old. Chinese medicine has developed acupuncture, acupressure, herbal remedies, diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, and other remedies as part of its healing methods. Nearly all of the forms of Oriental medicine that are used in the West today, including acupuncture, acupressure, shiatsu, and Chinese herbal medicine, have their roots in Chinese medicine. One legend has it that acupuncture and acupressure evolved as early Chinese healers studied the puncture wounds of Chinese warriors, noting that certain points on the body created interesting results when stimulated. The oldest known text specifically on acupuncture points, the Systematic Classic of Acupuncture, dates back to 282 a.d. Acupressure is the non-invasive form of acupuncture, as Chinese physicians determined that stimulating points on the body with massage and pressure could be effective for treating certain problems.

Outside of Asian-American communities, Chinese medicine remained virtually unknown in the United States until the 1970s, when Richard Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit China. On Nixon's trip, journalists were amazed to observe major operations being performed on patients without the use of anesthetics. Instead, wide-awake patients were being operated on, with only acupuncture needles inserted into them to control pain. At that time, a famous columnist for the New York Times, James Reston, had to undergo surgery and elected to use acupuncture for anesthesia. Later, he wrote some convincing stories on its effectiveness. Despite being neglected by mainstream medicine and the American Medical Association (AMA), acupuncture and Chinese medicine became a central to alternative medicine practitioners in the United States. Today, there are millions of patients who attest to its effectiveness, and nearly 9,000 practitioners in all 50 states.

Acupressure is practiced as a treatment by Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists, as well as by massage therapists. Most massage schools in American include acupressure techniques as part of their bodywork programs. Shiatsu massage is very closely related to acupressure, working with the same points on the body and the same general principles, although it was developed over centuries in Japan rather than in China. Reflexology is a form of bodywork based on acupressure concepts. Jin Shin Do is a bodywork technique with an increasing number of practitioners in America that combines acupressure and shiatsu principles with qigong, Reichian theory, and meditation.

Benefits

Acupressure massage performed by a therapist can be very effective both as prevention and as a treatment for many health conditions, including headaches, general aches and pains, colds and flu, arthritis, allergies, asthma, nervous tension, menstrual cramps, sinus problems, sprains, tennis elbow, and toothaches, among others. Unlike acupuncture which requires a visit to a professional, acupressure can be performed by a layperson. Acupressure techniques are fairly easy to learn, and have been used to provide quick, cost-free, and effective relief from many symptoms. Acupressure points can also be stimulated to increase energy and feelings of well-being, reduce stress, stimulate the immune system, and alleviate sexual dysfunction.

Description

Acupressure and Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine views the body as a small part of the universe, subject to laws and principles of harmony and balance. Chinese medicine does not make as sharp a destinction as Western medicine does between mind and body. The Chinese system believes that emotions and mental states are every bit as influential on disease as purely physical mechanisms, and considers factors like work, environment, and relationships as fundamental to a patient's health. Chinese medicine also uses very different symbols and ideas to discuss the body and health. While Western medicine typically describes health as mainly physical processes composed of chemical equations and reactions, the Chinese use ideas like yin and yang, chi, and the organ system to describe health and the body.

Everything in the universe has properties of yin and yang. Yin is associated with cold, female, passive, downward, inward, dark, wet. Yang can be described as hot, male, active, upward, outward, light, dry, and so on. Nothing is either completely yin or yang. These two principles always interact and affect each other, although the body and its organs can become imbalanced by having either too much or too little of either.

Chi (pronounced chee, also spelled qi or ki in Japanese shiatsu) is the fundamental life energy. It is found in food, air, water, and sunlight, and it travels through the body in channels called meridians. There are 12 major meridians in the body that transport chi, corresponding to the 12 main organs categorized by Chinese medicine.

Disease is viewed as an imbalance of the organs and chi in the body. Chinese medicine has developed intricate systems of how organs are related to physical and mental symptoms, and it has devised corresponding treatments using the meridian and pressure point networks that are classified and numbered. The goal of acupressure, and acupuncture, is to stimulate and unblock the circulation of chi, by activating very specific points, called pressure points or acupoints. Acupressure seeks to stimulate the points on the chi meridians that pass close to the skin, as these are easiest to unblock and manipulate with finger pressure.

Acupressure can be used as part of a Chinese physician's prescription, as a session of massage therapy, or as a self-treatment for common aches and illnesses. A Chinese medicine practitioner examines a patient very thoroughly, looking at physical, mental, and emotional activity, taking the pulse usually at the wrists, examining the tongue and complexion, and observing the patient's demeanor and attitude, to get a complete diagnosis of which organs and meridian points are out of balance. When the imbalance is located, the physician will recommend specific pressure points for acupuncture or acupressure. If acupressure is recommended, the patient might opt for a series of treatments from a massage therapist.

In massage therapy, acupressurists will evaluate a patient's symptoms and overall health, but a massage therapist's diagnostic training isn't as extensive as a Chinese physician's. In a massage therapy treatment, a person usually lies down on a table or mat, with thin clothing on. The acupressurist will gently feel and palpate the abdomen and other parts of the body to determine energy imbalances. Then, the therapist will work with different meridians throughout the body, depending on which organs are imbalanced in the abdomen. The therapist will use different types of finger movements and pressure on different acupoints, depending on whether the chi needs to be increased or dispersed at different points. The therapist observes and guides the energy flow through the patient's body throughout the session. Sometimes, special herbs (Artemesia vulgaris or moxa) may be placed on a point to warm it, a process called moxibustion. A session of acupressure is generally a very pleasant experience, and some people experience great benefit immediately. For more chronic conditions, several sessions may be necessary to relieve and improve conditions.

Acupressure massage usually costs from $30-70 per hour session. A visit to a Chinese medicine physician or acupuncturist can be more expensive, comparable to a visit to an allopathic physician if the practitioner is a medical doctor (MD). Insurance reimbursement varies widely, and consumers should be aware if their policies cover alternative treatment, acupuncture, or massage therapy.

Self-treatment

Acupressure is easy to learn, and there are many good books that illustrate the position of acupoints and meridians on the body. It is also very versatile, as it can be done anywhere, and it's a good form of treatment for spouses and partners to give to each other and for parents to perform on children for minor conditions.

While giving self-treatment or performing acupressure on another, a mental attitude of calmness and attention is important, as one person's energy can be used to help another's. Loose, thin clothing is recommended. There are three general techniques for stimulating a pressure point.

  • Tonifying is meant to strengthen weak chi, and is done by pressing the thumb or finger into an acupoint with a firm, steady pressure, holding it for up to two minutes.
  • Dispersing is meant to move stagnant or blocked chi, and the finger or thumb is moved in a circular motion or slightly in and out of the point for two minutes.
  • Calming the chi in a pressure point utilizes the palm to cover the point and gently stroke the area for about two minutes.

There are many pressure points that are easily found and memorized to treat common ailments from headaches to colds.

  • For headaches, toothaches, sinus problems, and pain in the upper body, the "LI4" point is recommended. It is located in the web between the thumb and index finger, on the back of the hand. Using the thumb and index finger of the other hand, apply a pinching pressure until the point is felt, and hold it for two minutes. Pregnant women should never press this point.
  • To calm the nerves and stimulate digestion, find the "CV12" point that is four thumb widths above the navel in the center of the abdomen. Calm the point with the palm, using gentle stroking for several minutes.
  • To stimulate the immune system, find the "TH5" point on the back of the forearm two thumb widths above the wrist. Use a dispersing technique, or circular pressure with the thumb or finger, for two minutes on each arm.
  • For headaches, sinus congestion, and tension, locate the "GB20" points at the base of the skull in the back of the head, just behind the bones in back of the ears. Disperse these points for two minutes with the fingers or thumbs. Also find the "yintang" point, which is in the middle of the forehead between the eyebrows. Disperse it with gentle pressure for two minutes to clear the mind and to relieve headaches.

Precautions

Acupressure is a safe technique, but it is not meant to replace professional health care. A physician should always be consulted when there are doubts about medical conditions. If a condition is chronic, a professional should be consulted; purely symptomatic treatment can exacerbate chronic conditions. Acupressure should not be applied to open wounds, or where there is swelling and inflammation. Areas of scar tissue, blisters, boils, rashes, or varicose veins should be avoided. Finally, certain acupressure points should not be stimulated on people with high or low blood pressure and on pregnant women.

Research and general acceptance

In general, Chinese medicine has been slow to gain acceptance in the West, mainly because it rests on ideas very foreign to the scientific model. For instance, Western scientists have trouble with the idea of chi, the invisible energy of the body, and the idea that pressing on certain points can alleviate certain conditions seems sometimes too simple for scientists to believe.

Western scientists, in trying to account for the action of acupressure, have theorized that chi is actually part of the neuroendocrine system of the body. Celebrated orthopedic surgeon Robert O. Becker, who was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize, wrote a book on the subject called Cross Currents: The Promise of Electromedicine; The Perils of Electropollution. By using precise electrical measuring devices, Becker and his colleagues showed that the body has a complex web of electromagnetic energy, and that traditional acupressure meridians and points contained amounts of energy that non-acupressure points did not.

The mechanisms of acupuncture and acupressure remain difficult to document in terms of the biochemical processes involved; numerous testimonials are the primary evidence backing up the effectiveness of acupressure and acupuncture. However, a body of research is growing that verifies the effectiveness in acupressure and acupuncture techniques in treating many problems and in controlling pain.

Training and certification

There are two routes to becoming trained in the skill of acupressure. The first is training in traditional acupuncture and Chinese medicine, which has many schools and certifying bodies around the country. The majority of acupressure practitioners are trained as certified massage therapists, either as acupressure or shiatsu specialists.

The Acupressure Institute provides certification and resources for acupressure practitioners. Address: 1533 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709, phone: (510) 845-1059, website: www.acupressure.com.

The American Oriental Bodywork Therapy Association (AOBTA) certifies acupressure practitioners and has over 1,400 members. It also provides a list of schools and training programs. Address: 1010 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, Suite 408, Voorhees, NJ 08043, phone: (856) 782-1616.

The Jin Shin Do Foundation for Body/Mind Acupressure is an international network of teachers and practitioners. Address: 1084G San Miguel Canyon Road, Royal Oaks, CA 95076, phone: (408) 763-7702.

The largest organization that certifies massage therapists, with over 40,000 members worldwide, is the American Massage Therapy Association. It also has a member directory and lists of training programs. Website: www.amtamassage.org.

KEY TERMS

Acupoint— A pressure point stimulated in acupressure.

Chi— Basic life energy.

Meridian— A channel through which chi travels in the body.

Moxibustion— An acupuncture technique that burns the herb moxa or mugwort.

Shiatsu— Japanese form of acupressure massage.

Yin/yang— Universal characteristics used to describe aspects of the natural world.

Resources

BOOKS

Jarmey, Chris and John Tindall. Acupressure for Common Ailments. London: Gaia, 1991.

Kakptchuk, Ted. The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. New York: Congdon and Weed, 1983.

Warren, Frank Z., MD. Freedom From Pain Through Acupressure. New York: Fell, 1976.

PERIODICALS

Massage Therapy Journal. 820 Davis Street, Suite 100, Evanston, IL 60201-4444.

OTHER

American Association of Oriental Medicine. 〈http://www.aaom.org/〉 (December 28, 2000).

National Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance. 〈http://www.acuall.org/〉 (December 28, 2000).

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Acupressure

Acupressure

Acupressure is an ancient method of improving a persons health by applying pressure to specific sites on the body. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but does not break the skin. Instead, the acupressure practitioner relies on pressure at certain points on the skin invoked by fingertip or knuckle to accomplish his/her purpose. By doing so, the practitioner hopes to promote pain relief and healing in the patient.

Also called shiatsu, acupressure originated in ancient China in about 500 BC and spread throughout Asia. It is the oldest form of physical therapy for which instructions are written. A basic level of acupressure can be practiced by anyone for the relief of pain or tension, and the technique is in active use by those who practice alternative forms of medicine.

Like acupuncture, acupressure recognizes certain pressure points located along meridians that extend the length of the body. Certain meridians and their connectors are associated with given organs or muscles, and pressure points on the meridian will affect the pain level of the organ. The pressure points are often located far from the organ they affect. This idea is a reflection of the belief that energy flows through the body along the meridians and that pain develops in an area when the energy flow through the corresponding meridian is stopped or reduced. Acupressure opens the energy and eases pain or discomfort.

Before the first treatment, an acupressure practitioner obtains a thorough medical history and studies the patient carefully. All aspects of the individual are considered. The practitioner will observe the persons tone of voice and body language, as well as discussing many aspects of health, including eating habits, sensitivity to temperature, emotional distress, and urine color. Before receiving acupressure, patients are usually asked why they want acupressure and are also asked about their current physical condition, medical history, and any areas of specific pain.

During acupressure, light to medium pressure is applied to an acupoint, and it is rotated in a tight circle. Primarily, this is done with the fingers, thumbs, and hands. Sometimes, the elbows or knees are used for key pressure points. Since the most reactive points are tender or sensitive when pressed, this response helps to determine the correct location. If the response cannot be felt, the pressure point location may not be correct or the pressure may not be strong enough. The sensations felt during an acupressure treatment may generate pleasure and/or pain. Acupressure on a single point can last thirty seconds, five minutes, or twenty minutes involving one-minute sequences with rests in between. The length of the massage depends on the tolerance of the patient and on the type of acupressure.

Anyone who would practice acupressure must first learn the location of the meridians and their connectors. More than a thousand pressure points have been mapped along the meridians, but the amateur practitioner need not know them all. Generally the individual with a recurrent or chronic pain can learn the point that best eases his pain and learn how much pressure to apply to accomplish his purpose.

There are instances where more traditional Western medicine is the treatment of choice, including life threatening infection, severe trauma, or the need for surgical procedures, such as open heart surgery. However, reports from various Asian and American institutions indicate that acupressure can be an effective way to ease pain and relax stressed muscles without the aid of medications. It has even been employed to provide anesthesia for certain types of surgery. This understanding has led to the practice of both systems side by side in some places, with the strengths of each system complementing the other.

See also Alternative medicine.

Larry Blaser

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Acupressure

Acupressure

Definition

Acupressure is a body-based therapy similar to acupuncture that involves the application of pressure (from the hands or from various implements) to the same points on the body stimulated by needles in acupuncture. It is defined by the founder of an American acupressure institute as “an ancient healing art that uses the fingers to press key points on the surface of the skin to stimulate the body's natural selfcurative abilities.” The English term acupressure, which dates back only to 1958, is sometimes used to

refer to a variety of bodywork techniques that also involve pressure on or manipulation of the body even though they may not be based on the energy theories of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). All versions of acupressure are considered to be forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States and Canada.

Description

History and theory

Acupressure, like acupuncture, is a modality of treatment in TCM. It is part of an overall system of preventive medicine and health maintenance that includes herbal remedies, dietary recommendations, regular therapeutic exercise , and the practice of martial arts as well as bodywork. Like acupuncture, acupressure in TCM is based on a prescientific theory of energy flow within the body. According to some historians, acupressure in China is thought to have been practiced even earlier than acupuncture and may date as far back as 2000 B.C.

Acupressure is thought to restore health by clearing or removing energy imbalances in the body. Practitioners of TCM believe that there is a vital force or energy called chi (sometimes spelled qi and pronounced “chee”) that flows through the body and between the skin surface and the internal organs along channels or pathways called meridians. Many practitioners of acupuncture count 12 major and 8 minor meridians, although some count only 14.

Chi regulates the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical harmony of the body by balancing two cosmic forces known as yin and yang. These two forces govern the entire universe, not just the human body. Yang, a principle of heat, activity, and brightness, governs the outer portions of the body, whereas yin, a principle of coldness, passivity, and darkness, governs the interior organs. TCM does not try to eliminate either yin or yang but rather seeks to keep them in harmonious balance. Acupressure is used to raise or lower the level of yin or yang in a specific part of the body in order to restore the energy balance. Practitioners of TCM have identified at least 2,000 acupoints (locations on the body used in both acupressure and acupuncture) along the 14 (or 20) meridians that can be stimulated to unblock the flow of chi.

Types of acupressure

In the United States and Canada, the term “acupressure” was not regulated as of early 2008. At that time, several different forms of bodywork described themselves as acupressure or as using acupressure.

BASIC ACUPRESSURE The basic technique used in Western versions of acupressure is pressure applied by the human finger or hand in order to relieve stress or tension and enable the body to relax. Individuals can perform basic acupressure on their own bodies after they gain some instruction from a practitioner or handbook.

There are four techniques used in basic acupressure:

  • Firm pressure. The thumbs, fingers, knuckles, or side of the hand are used to apply steady stationary pressure to relax a part of the body or relieve pain. One or two minutes of pressure applied gradually is said to relax and calm the nervous system and promote healing in the affected part. If the area requires stimulation rather than relaxation, firm pressure is applied for only 4–5 seconds. A person performing self-acupressure is generally advised to use the middle finger, as it is the longest, and to apply pressure at a 90-degree angle to the skin.
  • Slow-motion kneading. The practitioner uses the heels of the hands as well as the thumbs and fingers to knead or squeeze large muscle groups. This technique is used to relieve constipation as well as leg cramps or tension in the neck and shoulders.
  • Light brisk rubbing. This technique is used to improve blood circulation in the skin or to relieve chills.
  • Quick tapping. The practitioner uses fingertips on the face or a loose fist on larger areas of the body in order to improve muscle tone and nerve function.

Individuals performing self-acupressure are advised not to work on any single area of the body for longer than 15 minutes or extend the entire session beyond an hour. They should also wear loose, comfortable clothing and wait for at least an hour after a meal before performing self-acupressure.

SHIATSU Shiatsu is a Japanese form of acupressure whose name comes from the Japanese words for “finger” and “pressure.” In addition to putting pressure on acupoints, the shiatsu practitioner may use palm pressure, stretching, kneading, or other manipulative techniques. The most distinctive aspect of shiatsu is the intensive use of the practitioner's thumbs during the treatment. Shiatsu practitioners in Japan are licensed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and are officially known as shiatsupractors. In the West, shiatsu is used most often to treat musculoskeletal disorders or such psychological problems as depression and anxiety .

Shiatsu is an evolving form of acupressure that combines some of the practices of Chinese tui na massage with Western medical knowledge. The name shiatsu was first used in a book published in 1915 by the healer Tenpaku Tamai. Shiatsu was systematized in the 1940s and 1950s by Tokujiro Namikoshi (1905–2000), who combined the massage techniques of anma (the Japanese name for tui na) with Western understanding of human anatomy and physiology.

Shiatsu became popular in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, when Namikoshi treated several American celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali.

TUI NA MASSAGE Tui na (sometimes spelled tuina) massage, an integral part of TCM, is part of the curriculum in Chinese medical schools. Its name can be loosely translated as “push-grasp” or “pokepinch.” Tui na is thought to be about 2,000 years old and to have started out as a form of manipulation used to reset dislocated bones. As practiced in the early 2000s, it involves vigorous deep-tissue work as well as lighter stroking or touching, as it is intended to improve the body's structural realignment as well as relieve stress. Practitioners may use any part of the hand, the palms, or knuckles as well as the fingers. They may also use herbal packs or compresses to warm the client's skin.

A tui na treatment may last anywhere from 10 minutes to more than an hour. The client wears loose clothing and lies on a massage table or pad on the floor. The practitioner begins with some questions about the client's basic health and specific problems. The practitioner then concentrates on the area around the affected part(s) of the body, concentrating on the acupoints located in those areas. The client's clothing may be repositioned to expose an area that requires direct contact, but the practitioner is expected to inform the client before adjusting the clothing.

REFLEXOLOGY Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is a form of acupressure in which pressure is applied to the sole of the client's foot by the practitioner's hands or by tongue depressors, rubber balls, or sticks of wood. Practitioners of reflexology generally base their technique on the TCM theory of chi and the meridians or energy channels in the body. The chief theoretical difference is that reflexologists believe that the foot can be mapped into zones corresponding to the various parts of the body, the right foot governing organs on the right side of the body and the left foot governing those on the left. Modern reflexology began with the American doctor William Fitzgerald (1872–1942), who divided the foot into 10 zones and named his technique zone therapy. It was renamed reflexology by Eunice Ingham (1899–1974), a nurse and physical therapist , who mapped the entire body into so-called reflexes on the feet.

A typical reflexology treatment in the early 2000s lasts between 30 and 60 minutes, with sessions spaced over four to eight weeks. The client remains fully clothed while the practitioner massages the feet and then applies firmer pressure to the areas of the feet corresponding to the parts of the body that are tense or painful. The reflexologist may use lotions, oils, or aromatherapy products as part of the treatment.

TAPAS ACUPRESSURE TECHNIQUE (TAT) Tapas acupressure technique (TAT) is a controversial technique that was invented in 1993 by a licensed acupuncturist and TCM practitioner in California named Tapas Fleming. TAT is based on the basic TCM theory of ill health as due to energy blockages in the body, although it also claims to release stress inherited from one's ancestors as well as stress resulting from physical disorders or emotional trauma in the client's own life. Practitioners of TAT claim that by applying light pressure to four areas (the inner corner of each eye; a spot one-half-inch above the space between the eyebrows; and the back of the head) while sitting in a recommended pose “clears” the blockage of chi caused by past trauma and allows healing. Like some other forms of acupressure, TAT can be self-administered.

Apart from one study published in 2007 that indicates TAT may be of some benefit in weight loss , no research has been done on its effectiveness in treating disorders that commonly affect seniors.

HYBRID FORMS OF ACUPRESSURE Some forms of self-administered acupressure consist of combining pressure on acupoints with bending or stretching exercises or yoga poses. Acu-yoga is a discipline in which the practitioner chooses certain yoga postures that will place pressure on the acupoints that affect his or her specific health concern. For example, someone suffering from eye strain may wish to use a yoga position that puts pressure on the liver meridian, which governs the eyes, according to TCM. Developed by Michael Gach, an American who has written a number of books on acupressure, acu-yoga is intended to increase awareness and inner calm as well as relieve physical stress and tension.

Acupressure research

The most studied use of acupressure in the West as of 2008 is its use in controlling nausea. A number of trials suggest the effectiveness of wrist-point (known as the P6 acupoint) acupressure in the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy or with cancer chemotherapy. Although acupressure has not been studied as extensively as acupuncture, about 500 research studies had been published around the world as of 2008.

As of 2008, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) was conducting two trials of acupressure, one on its effectiveness as a weight loss measure and the other on its effectiveness in relieving the discomfort of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Demographics

Some forms of acupressure are used extensively in China and Japan, both formally and informally. Tui na is widely used in China to treat acute as well as chronic musculoskeletal disorders; in fact, it is not unusual to see practitioners treating clients on street corners or in parks. In addition to the general population's use of acupressure for health purposes and relaxation , practitioners of martial arts in these countries study the acupoints in order to enhance their own energy circulation and to weaken or incapacitate their opponents. A knowledge of acupressure is thought to be useful in self-defense.

Reflexology is used more widely in the United Kingdom as of the early 2000s than in the United States or Canada.

While massage therapy and chiropractic treatments account for about 50 percent of all visits to CAM practitioners in the United States in an average year, NCCAM estimates that less than 7 percent of American adults have used acupressure or one of its variations. A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2004 stated that more Americans who try CAM therapies do so for musculoskeletal disorders than for any other single disease or disorder. According to the CDC, Caucasians are more likely to try acupressure and other body-based therapies (12 percent) than either Asian Americans (7.2 percent) or African Americans (4.4 percent). Tui na massage is the most common form of acupressure used among Chinese Americans.

Older Americans and younger Americans are more likely to use body-based CAM therapies than middle-aged adults, and women are more likely to use these treatments than men. The study also reported that use of body-based therapies rises with higher educational levels. Last, 28 percent of those who used body-based therapies in the early 2000s did so because their doctor recommended them.

Purpose

In the United States and Canada, acupressure is used most commonly as an adjunctive (helping) treatment for the relief of chronic or acute pain , particularly pain involving muscles and joints. Some hybrid forms, in particular acu-yoga, may also be used to improve flexibility and range of motion. Most Americans who use acupressure do so in addition to rather than in place of mainstream treatments.

Since 2004, a number of studies have reported that acupressure is effective in treating the following conditions specifically in seniors:

  • Anxiety preceding treatment for kidney disorders
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders
  • Emergency pain control following hip fracture
  • Chronic lower back pain
  • Constipation
  • High blood pressure
  • Pain management in terminal cancer
  • Depression

In addition to its efficacy in relieving pain and other chronic musculoskeletal conditions, acupressure has gained in popularity in the United States and Canada because of several other advantages:

  • It lacks the side effects associated with many medications and surgical treatments in Western medicine.
  • Unlike acupuncture, acupressure does not involve the use of needles, which may be an advantage to seniors who are afraid of needles.
  • Acupressure is highly cost-effective; it can be used early in the course of a disease and save the patient some of the costs of hospitalizations, laboratory tests, and high-priced drugs.
  • It can easily be combined with other forms of therapy.
  • It is noninvasive.
  • It carries relatively few risks.
  • Some forms of acupressure can be self-administered once the senior has learned the basic techniques, rather than requiring visits to a practitioner.

Challenges

Seniors interested in acupressure should inquire about the practitioner's credentials. Not all types of bodywork that claim to be forms of acupressure have credentialing systems or licensing requirements. Reflexology appears to be the least regulated, with practitioners obtaining certificates after as little as 6 months of study at home. The American Organization of Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA) recognizes about 13 different types of bodywork, including several different forms of shiatsu as well as tui na massage and traditional acupressure. (Reflexology is not included, most likely because it is not considered an Asian therapy.) The AOBTA had about 1,500 active members in the United States and elsewhere as of 2008. According to the organization's Web site, a prospective member must provide the following: “documentation of training which conforms to [the organization's] curriculum requirements for Certified Practitioner (minimum of 500 hours) and Associate (minimum of 150 hours).” In addition, “All training must either be delivered by an AOBTA Certified Instructor, or reviewed and approved by an AOBTA Certified Instructor with the use of an AOBTA approved transcript.” The Web site includes a search function for locating certified members.

Seniors seeking acupressure treatment should provide the practitioner with the same information about their health conditions and other forms of treatment that they would give their primary care doctor. This information should include their use of other alternative and complementary therapies, especially herbal remedies.

Although tui na was considered particularly appropriate for the elderly in ancient China, contemporary seniors with fragile bones, external wounds, open sores, malignant tumors, or infectious diseases should not consider this form of acupressure, as the deep-tissue work may be painful.

As is true with other forms of medical treatment, some patients do not respond to acupressure. The reasons for this failure to respond were not known as of 2008.

Risks

Several American and British reports have concluded that the risks to the patient from an acupressure treatment are minimal. Most complications from acupressure fall into two categories: bruising or minor soft tissue injury from pressure on the skin and underlying muscle, and injuries to muscle tissue. One case of shingles (a viral inflammation caused by reactivation of the herpesvirus that causes chickenpox) has been reported following a shiatsu treatment, but it was not clear that the flareup was caused by the shiatsu itself. As of early 2008, no serious complications associated with acupressure had been reported in medical publications.

KEY TERMS

Acupoint —Any location on the body stimulated in either acupressure or acupuncture in order to redirect or adjust the flow of energy within the body. Some practitioners maintain that the human body has over 2,000 acupoints.

Aromatherapy —A form of alternative medicine that uses essential oils derived from plants or other aromatic compounds to affect mood or improve health.

Auricular —Pertaining to the ear. Auricular acupressure is based on the theory that the acupoints on the ear correspond to acupoints on other parts of the body and to certain internal disorders.

Bodywork —A general term for body-based therapies that involve touching or manipulation of body tissues. Acupressure is classified as a form of bodywork.

Chi (qi) —The Chinese term for energy, life force, or vital force. Acupressure is thought to unblock the flow of chi in parts of the body where it has become weak or stagnant.

Reflexology —A form of acupressure that seeks to lower stress or treat other health conditions through the application of pressure to specific points or areas of the feet. It is sometimes called zone therapy.

Shiatsu —A Japanese form of acupressure that combines elements of traditional Chinese massage techniques with Western medical understanding of the structures and functions of the human body.

Tapas acupressure technique (TAT) —A controversial form of acupressure based on TCM that claims to clear hereditary as well as past trauma by putting pressure on four points on the face and head.

Tui na —A form of acupressure using tapping, kneading, and pressing motions that is part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Yin and yang —In traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy, a pair of opposing forces whose harmonious balance in the body is necessary to good health.

Self-administered acupressure is considered to be safe when the senior has been properly trained and takes the necessary precautions.

Results

The usual results of acupressure treatment are muscular loosening, improved circulation, greater range of motion in affected joints, and an overall sense of relaxation.

Resources

BOOKS

Stein, Aaron. Acupressure Guide: Alleviate Headaches, Neck and Joint Pain, Anxiety Attacks and Other Ailments. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2005.

PERIODICALS

Barker, R., A. Kober, K. Hoerauf, et al. “Out-of-Hospital Auricular Acupressure in Elder Patients with Hip Fracture: A Randomized Double-Blinded Trial.” Academic Emergency Medicine 13 (January 2006): 19–23.

Elder, C., C. Ritenbaugh, S. Mist, et al. “Randomized Trial of Two Mind-Body Interventions for Weight-Loss Maintenance.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 13 (January-February 2007): 67–78.

Gooneratne, N. S. “Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Sleep Disturbances in Older Adults.” Clinics in Geriatric Medicine 24 (February 2008): 121–138.

Hsieh, L. L., C. H. Kuo, L. H. Lee, et al. “Treatment of Low Back Pain by Acupressure and Physical Therapy: Randomised Controlled Trial.” British Medical Journal 332 (March 25, 2006): 696–700.

Meeks, T. W., J. W. Wetherell, M. R. Irwin, et al. “Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Late-Life Depression, Anxiety, and Sleep Disturbance: A Review of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 68 (October 2007): 1461–1471.

Molassiotis, A., et al. “The Effects of P6 Acupressure in the Prophylaxis of Chemotherapy-Related Nausea and Vomiting in Breast Cancer Patients.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine 15 (March 2007): 3–12.

Mora, B., M. Iannuzzi, T. Lang, et al. “Auricular Acupressure as a Treatment for Anxiety before Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy in the Elderly.” Journal of Urology 178 (July 2007): 160–164.

Suen, L. K., et al. “Auriculotherapy on Low Back Pain in the Elderly.” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 13 (February 2007): 63–69.

OTHER

Barnes, Patricia M., and Eve Powell-Griner. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use among Adults—United States, 2002. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 27, 2004 [cited February 13, 2008]. http://nccam.nih.gov/news/report.pdf.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Backgrounder: An Introduction to Acupuncture. NCCAM Publication No. D238. Bethesda, MD: NCCAM. March 2007 [cited February 13, 2008]. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/backgrounds/manipulative.htm.

ORGANIZATIONS

Acupressure Institute, 1533 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA, 94709, (510) 845-1059, (800) 442-2232, [email protected], http://www.acupressure.com/program/index.htm.

American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM), 1925 West County Rd., B2, Roseville, MN, 55113, (651) 631-0216, http://www.aaaom.edu/index.php.

American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA), 4929 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 428, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, (323) 937-5514, [email protected], http://www.medicalacupuncture.org/index.html.

American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA), 1010 Haddonfield-Berlin Rd., Suite 408, Voorhees, NJ, 08043, (856) 782-1616, (856) 782-1653, [email protected], http://www.aobta.org/index.php.

Association of Reflexologists (AoR), 5 Fore St., Taunton, Somerset, England, TA1 1HX, 01823 351010, 01823 336646, [email protected], http://www.aor.org.uk/index.asp.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD, 20892, (301) 519-3153, (888) 644-6226, (866) 464-3616, [email protected], http://nccam.nih.gov.

National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), 76 South Laura St., Suite 1290, Jacksonville, FL, 32202, (904) 598-1005, (904) 598-5001, http://www.nccaom.org/index.html.

Natural Standard, 245 First St., 18th Floor, Cambridge, MA, 02142, (617) 444-8629, (617) 758-4274, [email protected], http://www.naturalstandard.com/.

TATLife, PO Box 5192, Mooresville, NC, 28117, (310) 378-7381, (877) 674-4344, http://www.tatlife.com/.

Rebecca J. Frey Ph.D.

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Acupressure

Acupressure

Acupressure is an ancient method of improving a person's health by applying pressure to specific sites on the body. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture , but does not break the skin. Instead, the acupressure practitioner relies on pressure invoked by fingertip or knuckle to accomplish his purpose.

Also called Shiatzu, acupressure originated in ancient China approximately 500 years b.c. and spread throughout the Orient. It is the oldest form of physical therapy for which instructions are written. A basic level of acupressure can be practiced by anyone for the relief of pain or tension, and the practice is in active use by those who practice alternative forms of medicine.

Like acupuncture, acupressure recognizes certain pressure points located along meridians that extend the length of the body. Certain meridians and their connectors are associated with given organs or muscles, and pressure points on the meridian will affect the pain level in the organ . The pressure points are often located far from the organ they affect. This is a reflection of the belief that energy flows through the body along the meridians and that pain develops in an area when the energy flow through the corresponding meridian is stopped or reduced. Acupressure opens the energy and eases pain or discomfort.

Anyone who would practice acupressure must first learn the location of the meridians and their connectors. More than a thousand pressure points have been mapped along the meridians, but the amateur practitioner need not know them all. Generally the individual with a recurrent or chronic pain can learn the point that best eases his pain and learn how much pressure to apply to accomplish his purpose.

Reports from various Asian and American institutions claim that acupressure can be an effective way to ease pain and relax stressed muscles without the aid of medications. It has even been employed to provide anesthesia for certain types of surgery .

See also Alternative medicine.

Larry Blaser

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