Potential Benefits of Acupressure
There are many ways you can reduce stress in your life and maintain a more healthy mental and physical state, like yoga and meditation to name a few. However, potentially another effective way you can achieve improved health, is through forms of acupressure.
Acupressure is a well know CAM (contemporary and alternative medicines) 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 question how this from of therapy may benefit you in some more modern or contemporary way. In this post, we’ll talk about what acupressure is and what the potential benefits of acupressure are.
What is Acupressure?
Before we talk about the benefits of acupressure, let's define what acupressure is and talk about what it entails. Like discussed above, acupressure is an alternative form of medicine, it originated and is still practiced in many Chinese cultures as well as all over the globe.
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 though and come from traditional Chinese medicine.
Within the practice, acupressure relies on acupoints, where the practitioner uses pressure from their thumb's on certain pressure points, which helps to release muscular tension and balance the flow of physiological energy.
These pressure points are located along the meridians, which are said to be connected to various organs and tissues within the human 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?
Many 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, 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 along time, and most likely for good reason, however, there is certainly a lack of studies surrounding the effectiveness of this form of therapy and exactly how it may help relieve symptoms. One of the main issues is the sample size of some of the studies.
1. Helps Rid of Stress in the Body
One of the main potential benefits of acupressure is stress reduction. Like with other CAM type of therapies, one of the main points of interest surrounds stress reduction, or reduction in 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 in 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. Help Improve Your Sleep
Stress creates tension in the body, and if you're like some, it can effect your sleep in a big way.
When we lie down at night, 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, thinking endlessly about the next day, or situations they know they must make decisions about.
Alternatively, your stress levels could be high, and your thoughts might be running a million miles a minute. So even when you fall asleep your sleep cycle may become altered, effecting your overall sleep periods.
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.
There may even be some level of acupressure that you yourself can do to help. Pressure points like bubbling spring, or three yin intersection to name a few are points that you yourself could 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 where 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 from (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, but it may help signify further research needs to be done surrounding acupressure and sleep disorders.
3. Improves Your Mental Health
Acupressure however, 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. Like discussed previously, acupressure has been shown to improve conditions like anxiety and depression, or be beneficial psychologically, in some studies. Fatigue, which is a major symptom of both disorders, can be reduced.
If you're able to better manage stress, and constant worry, your overall mood may be lifted as well from sessions of acupressure. More scientific evidence certainly needs to be gathered to confirm these results, but 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 in both at 2-weeks intervention, and after the intervention was complete or post intervention.
When combined or used with other complementary forms of therapies, even greater results may be achieved.
* Remember, always speak to a medical professional or holistic medicine expert before altering a current regimen of 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. Can Help With Chronic Pain
Another benefit of acupressure comes in the form pain relief. Many people around the world experience some kind of chronic pain, whether it be age related, disease process or other types of accidents or even sports injuries.
A study done in 2013 publishing discussed findings with acupressure and it's effects on nurses with chronic lower back pain. Data in the study was collected immediately after, as well as 2 & 4-weeks after intervention of the acupressure sessions. The mean pain scores in the experiential groups decreased significantly, immediately after sessions as well as 2 and 4-weeks post intervention.
These types of studies may further indicate that acupressure, along with other treatments, may help and prove to be a cost effective, non-invasive and an intervention with low side effect, way of reducing chronic pain.
Pain medication and other forms of medication can help, but the use of pain medication has also been on the rise, so adding in complementary therapies may help reduce frequency of use.
Keep in mind whenever discussing forms of alternative therapies or CAM this usually means an individual has to make time for themselves and these alternative forms of therapies. There needs to be a certain amount of intrinsic motivation and dedication to see best results.
Practices like, yoga, meditation, forms of aromatherapy and acupressure, need to become part of your daily or weekly lives to see best results.
5. Reduces Headaches and Migraines
Headaches and migraines can also be 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, right 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 in your body. 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 reveled studies have shown acupressure being effective relief of pain in patients with dysmenorrhea, during labor and after trauma.
It's clear however that more research needs to be done on the effectiveness of acupressure in other types of orthopedic or joint replacement operations and should be used in conjunction with other pharmacological and rehabilitative therapies.
7. Can 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, but 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. Helps With Blood Circulation
There is much more research on acupuncture and it's potential benefits on blood flow then that of acupressure, but 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. In this study it found some potential benefits of acupuncture in decreased vascular resistance, increase blood flow in such patients with open angle glaucoma, as well as other positive results of acupuncture.
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, as well being a non-invasive type of therapy. There is no special equipment or medications that one is putting inside there body.
Acupressure is certainly a practice that needs to be further investigated and studied, as 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, possibly helping with post-operative rehabilitations 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 on our blog in the comments section.