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Acupressure explained and its effects to the health

Introduction

Acupressure practice until today is a testimony of its effectiveness in treating illness and pain. Although people may rely on drugs and medications such as pain killers in dealing with stress and strain to provide temporary relief. These drugs could also cause adverse effects on our health in the long run. As a result, people still reach out to ancient therapies like acupressure to strengthen the body from the core by stimulating specific pressure points. Acupressure provides long term relief from ailments and pains without relying on drugs. It also can keep you in tune with harmony and nature.

What is acupressure?

For over 2000 years, acupressure has played a significant role in human health treatment. It originated from China under Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that includes herbal remedies, therapeutic exercise, and bodywork. TCM theory explains various acupressure points along meridians or pathways in the body where energy (qi/chi) flows. Chi regulates the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical harmony of the body by balancing two cosmic forces referred to as yin and yang. These two forces govern the whole universe, not just the physical body. Yang, a principle of warmth, activity, and brightness, controls the outer portions of the body. While yin, a foundation of coldness, passivity, and darkness, governs the inside organs. TCM does not attempt to eliminate either yin or yang but instead seeks to keep them in harmonious balance. Acupressure functions to boost or drop the quantity of yin or yang in a particular part of the body and restore the energy balance. Practitioners of TCM have identified a minimum of 2,000 acupoints (locations on the physique body performed in both acupressure and acupuncture). They consider twelve major meridians and eight minor meridians that connect to specific organs in your body to unblock the flow of chi. Accordingly, that body imbalance such as pain and illness occurs when one meridian is blocked. Acupressure is one type of TCM that can help restore health by removing imbalance energy inside the body.

Acupressure is a kind of acupuncture where instead of sticking sterile needles, you do it through a massage of pressure points. Performing it involves using fingers, palms, elbows, feet, or acupressure devices to relieve stress or tension in specific areas. Aside from the absence of needles, acupressure can also be self-administered

How can acupressure help with your pain?

Locations of acupressure points follow nerve fiber paths in our body that transports messages from nerve endings through the central nervous system. Pressing them at the right place can make the pain disappear. These pain messages can be blocked before they arrive at the brain, so acupressure is the best therapy to do this.

According to Gate Control Theory by Melzack and Wall, acupressure at a specific point passes sensual impulses to the brain at a rate four times faster than pain. Its regular therapy will help slow down pain messages. This process helps improve or strengthen the pain perception threshold of the body. Based on the location of acupressure, small myelin nerves activates in the muscle. It passes stimulations to the higher nerve centers along the spinal cord, midbrain, hypothalamus, and pituitary axis. We need to understand that acupressure is not an on-off switch that makes pain or discomfort disappear immediately. Instead, it is more like the opening and closing of gates. Applying acupressure to particular points on the body can close off or block nerve impulses that transmit pain to the brain. At the same time, it can initiate communication to the brain commanding it to deliver pain-reducing chemicals into the bloodstream. Together, this opening and closing combination can allow a sense of comfort to flow through you.

Acupressure also involves a biochemical system that triggers neurohormonal responses. It includes counteraction among the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis that leads to the overproduction of cortisol and causes a relaxation response. Also, it modulates pain feedback by increasing endorphin and serotonin transmittance to the brain and specific organs through nerves and meridians. These messages are transmitted to the brain and signal it to release endorphins or chemicals that reduce pain and restore a sense of comfort. In this manner, meridian acupressure helps to change the concentration of stress hormones and lactic acid. Particularly in the case of the respiratory function, acupressure plays a mediating role. Pressing acupoint activates myelinated neural fibers that stimulate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Then it leads to the release of β-endorphins from the hypothalamus into the spinal fluid and pituitary into the bloodstream, respectively. Thus, the analgesic and sedative effect of β-endorphins aids in the normal respiratory behavior of the patient.

As for the Meridian theory on using acupressure, the area along the meridian will be affected when pressing distinct acupoints and will affect the functioning of local tissues. Acupressure releases nitric oxide (NO) signal to enhance local microcirculation by cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). It helps in advancing physical performance by suppressing fatigue-inducing molecules in the blood. The relationship between acupressure and microcirculation can be specified by various spectroscopic methods. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) helps in defining the regional oxygen saturation while Laser Doppler measurement (LDM) attempts to determine the microcirculatory efficacy and basic mechanisms of acupressure therapy. In contrast with LDM, NIRS is more sensitive in identifying the tissue in-flow changes as it can enter a lot further in the sample. So, applying constant pressure for around 1 min at particular acupoints will assist with decreasing both local and transmitting pain. Acupressure brings about an intense decrease in pain sensitivity and pressure pain sensitivity. On surgical procedure, acupressure helps in avoiding surgical hemorrhage and advancing the healing procedure. To sum it up, acupressure assists with decreasing tissue bond, advances relaxation, and blood circulation, increases parasympathetic nerve action, and intramuscular temperature alongside the decrease in neuromuscular volatility.

Explanation of back pressure points

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The human back plays an important role in acupressure. It is the largest posterior of the body which comprises the back of the neck up to the top of the buttocks. Its main function is to protect the spinal cord which houses a lot of nerve fibers and tissue that connects to all parts of the body into the brain. The nerves inside the spinal cord are pathways where pain messages travel to reach the brain. And so its connection to acupressure greatly relies on its principle about meridian pathways in the body. These pathways are where the energy (qi/chi) flows to exhibit balance and health. And since the spinal cord connects to almost all of the body, it also holds all the meridian paths. With that, a lot of pressure points are also present at the human back. The back is one of the best locations to block pain messages before it reaches the brain. Listed below are some acupressure points found in the back that are used to treat different aches and problems all over the body.

  • Sea of Vitality – It is also called as Lower Back points. It consists of four acupressure points on the back that are found on each side of the spine below the last rib or waist level. Use two-finger width and four-finger width away from the spine formed in a horizontal line to get its exact location. These points are useful for lower back pain relief, sciatica pain, stomach pain, abdominal pain, and indigestion.
  • Heavenly Pillar – marked as B10, this point can be found one and a half-inch below the skull base and one and a half inch out from the spine on the neck. Use two fingers to press equal points to relieve eyestrain, stiff neck, sore throat, and headache. Since these points improve blood circulation in the brain, it also relieves stress, anxiety, and insomnia, as well as reducing skin disorders like acne and breakouts.
  • Gates of Consciousness – also called a Gallbladder channel or marked as G20 is an acupressure point located in the hollows between two neck muscles right under the base of the skull. It is used in the treatment of acute disorders, such as the common cold, influenza, headache, migraine, dizziness, neck pain, and fever. Besides that, it lowers blood pressure.
  • Wind Mansion – marked as GV16, using one finger, locate this pressure point at the back of the head, in the center of hollow below the skull. This pressure point increases blood circulation to improve sleep, help with digestion, reduce headache, toothache and arthritis pain, sore throat, and nosebleeds. Some therapists perform this with the use of ice while applying pressure.
  • Shoulder Well – located between the bottom of the neckline and outer point of your shoulder, press this point at the highest part of your shoulder to relieve all kinds of stiffness in the neck and shoulders, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, as well as back pains.
  • Sacral Points – these are a group of pressure points located at the sacrum or the base of the spine and is directly above the tailbone. This acupressure is performed to relieve lower back pains, hip pains, menstrual cramps, and sciatica.

What is an acupressure massage?

               Acupressure is a massage therapy based on the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It stimulates pressure using fingers, palms, elbows, feet, or other acupressure tools to mobilize chi. Acupressure massage targets distinct spots on the body called acupressure points. These are physical locations where chi can be accessed to release blocked or congested energy centers in the body, promoting unobstructed chi flow for health and well-being. Acupressure practitioners use their fingers, palms, elbows or feet, or devices to apply pressure to acupoints on the body’s meridians. Sometimes, acupressure also involves stretching. Several sessions may be needed before the pain disappears completely.

Typical setups of acupressure massage sessions involve lying down fully clothed on a soft massage table. The acupressure specialist softly presses on acupoints on your body. Applying pressure is usually held between 30 seconds to two minutes and is repeated three to five times. A session typically lasts about one hour and may need several sessions for the best results. Acupressure massage could also be self-administered with the proper background. You just need to remember the basics of using pressure, relaxing in a comfortable position, and deep breathing. The purpose of acupressure massage is to renew health and balance to the body’s channels of energy and to regulate opposing forces of yin and yang.

What is an acupressure point?

Acupressure points in TCM theory are described as certain points that are found along meridians or pathways in the body. These acupressure points are pressed to promote energy flow to certain parts experiencing pain and deliver relief. There are two types of acupressure points, a local point, and a trigger point.

  1. A local point: This is a point of the body that targets the area of the body where the patient is experiencing pain or tension, which the therapist presses to relieve the discomfort.
  2. A trigger point: This is a point that the therapist presses to relieve pain, tension, or other problems in another part of the body, which is sometimes far from the area the practitioner is touching.

When a trigger point is massaged, the benefit circulates through the meridian to the area in pain. The meridians have specific pathways that connect acupressure points and to the internal organs, circulating electrical energy through the body. For that reason, the practitioner may massage areas that are not near your areas of pain.

What is the effect of acupressure? 

Acupressure massage may have a lot of health benefits, but it also has a few side effects. So, it is necessary to consider knowing some basics about the benefits and limitations of acupressure for curing common problems. Listed below are some of its positive and negative effects.

Benefits

  • Stress and depression relief
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Improve digestion and reduce stomach related problems
  • Helps weight loss
  • Resolve nausea
  • Nasal issues, runny nose, sinus congestion, cold, cough, dizziness, arthritis, sore throat, flu relief
  • Improve eyesight
  • Improve the tone of the skin and heal skin disorders.
  • Lessen hair fall and increase hair growth.
  • Constipation relief
  • Improve memory power
  • Pain relief
  • Improve the functionality of thyroid, asthma and fight diabetes
  • Fight addiction from tobacco, alcohol, smoking, and drugs
  • Improve sexual problems by boosting fertility
  • Relaxation to both mental and physical
  • It can be performed by self or without needing any assistance.
  • Improve mobility by not needing any accessories or tools to practice. It can be performed anywhere with little time to apply the pressure.
  • There is no age limit to apply pressure points. Starting from a 2-month-old baby to an old grandpa, anyone can benefit from it.

Limitations

As with any treatment options, even Acupressure has got some limitations but is still safe to practice.

  • No relief to applying pressure at wrong points and sometimes may lead to a rise in other problems.
  • Too much pressure may cause fracture while too little pressure delivers no results.
  • Applying acupressure points during pregnancy can trigger miscarriages and massage at wrong points may be critical to both the mother and the baby.
  • It cannot cure conditions related to the heart, brain, kidney, and liver completely. These depend on conventional treatments (doctors) for such problems along with acupressure to get desired results in less time.
  • Don’t expect to treat Cancer with acupressure
  • Some diseases can be cured for the short term but may show up again in the future.
  • It doesn’t help in critical problems like heart attacks, cancers, kidney issues, and more alike.
  • Acupressure doesn’t help much and may instead worsen the problem if the disease is severe.
  • Acupressure therapy’s biggest drawback is taking a lot of time to treat a long-standing illness. By stimulating pressure points at least 5 to 10 minutes, it not only consumes more time but also turns expensive over time, if assisted by a therapist.

Who will benefit from acupressure?

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Acupressure plays a paramount role in human health and welfare. Acupressure alleviates a wide range of disease conditions ranging from immune ailments to emotional disorders. It is a reciprocal approach that effectively alleviates diverse pains while managing multiple symptoms in an array of the patient population. Listed below is a list of beneficiaries on using acupressure.

  • Acupressure for women healthcare – acupressure has proved as a holistic medical toolbox for rejuvenating women health. Certain acupressure massage helps with labor pains, dysmenorrhea, and menstrual distress in women. Pelvic massage in acupressure through the vagina helps to control hormonal problems, orgasmic malfunctioning in women thus promoting fertility. It also reduces pain, anxiety, and stress concerning postmenopausal women.
  • Acupressure for men healthcare – similar to women population, acupressure is also helpful in males by work out various sexual problems. They help to resolve problems like infertility and impotence.
  • Acupressure for containment of side effects on various patients with disease conditions – it helps to improve chemotherapy-induced nausea, vomiting, and anxiety. It moderates vomiting in patients undergoing appendectomy and has proved to be as effective in preventing postoperative nausea after laparoscopic cholecystectomy. P6 acupressure helps to nullify opioids-induced nausea and accelerate the recovery of patients who are using patient-controlled analgesia after surgery
  • Acupressure for the obese population – acupressure was found to be effective in maintaining body weight. Acupressure alone or in combination with other therapies was used to control the body mass index (BMI). Acupressure and cognitive behavior therapy help to improve the lifestyles of obese people.
  • Miscellaneous applications of acupressure – nursing professionals may promote and enrich patients’ comfort in clinical set up through acupressure. Besides, acupressure is also used to treat emergency conditions like coma, pain, cough as well as asthma. Acupressure is an alternative non-drug therapy in spinal anesthesia. In addition to physical discomfort, acupressure helps to improve the mental health of patients. It is a non-pharmacological intervention that helps to enhance memory functions and as an adjunct treatment for traumatic brain injury. It also overcomes sleep disturbances in patients affected by cognitive disorders i.e. insomnia and other sleep disorders and patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It also improves the quality of sleep in elderly people.

Is acupressure for everyone?

Acupressure is minimally invasive and safe for virtually everyone. This is because acupressure does not require making any incisions or even taking medication. It does not even use needles. Instead, a series of pressing certain acupoints are done in the skin while to realign the body and bring it into balance. Although it has limitations to severe cases, cancer patients, and pregnant women, acupressure is nonetheless safe for everyone starting from a 2-month old child to an old adult.

As a self-healing technique, acupressure could also be performed individually by everyone. With the proper background on acupoints and meridian pathways, acupressure can be performed by anyone. However, proper diagnosis and selection of appropriate acupoints is the most important task in acupressure. It is still essential to take reliable counseling from a professional therapist with a serious disease condition. It is always better to consult professional acupuncturists in critical conditions involving lung, kidney, heart, and other contagious diseases. With specialized techniques and modalities, related education in this field through accredited programs to professionals is essential. Acupressure should be avoided after meals, alcohol consumption, or after taking narcotics. One should not perform acupressure on the skin if that is inflamed, injured, scarred or that has a rash.

Selection and activation of a specific acupoint and pressure to activate particular acupoints are of prime importance. The intensity of pressure has to be modulated in a specified way; high-intensity pressure may damage any body part while low-intensity pressure may prove inefficient to heal pain. Selection, activation, and pressure application at acupoints in special patient groups like pediatrics, pregnant, and menstruating women is still an issue of debate.

Conclusion / Summary

Acupuncture and acupressure may both be effective, safe, simple, and economical therapies but acupressure is more commendable because of its non-invasive and needle-free nature. Acupressure is more appropriate to drug medication due to ease of self-administration. It portrays an essential role in pain reduction, promotion of psychological well-being as well as patients’ quality of life. People who are not yet comfortable with needles or when there is a need of stimulating more delicate acupoints, acupressure therapy is preferred. Acupressure helps any practitioner to identify the specific acupoints in comparison to acupuncture with a needle. The best part about acupressure is that it provides a safe, gentle, and emotional touch for promoting the wellbeing of the human population. To support acupressure and expand its therapies, we have to shed more light upon the therapeutic functionalities of acupressure and to encourage its practice across the hospitals.

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