Understanding Acupressure: A Journey Through Time and Pressure Points

Acupressure for the whole body

Welcome to the world of acupressure, a realm where pressure points are the keys to unlocking your body’s potential for healing and wellness. So, let’s begin by answering the basic question — What is acupressure all about?

Understanding Acupressure

Acupressure, as the name suggests, is a technique that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body. This ancient healing art is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine and is often described as “acupuncture without the needles.” Instead of using needles, it relies on the hands, elbows, or even devices to apply pressure to various points on the body. This pressure can help stimulate the body’s natural self-curative abilities, making this type of bodywork a popular choice for those seeking a natural approach to health and wellness.

But acupressure is more than just a technique. It’s a journey into the body’s energy system, a voyage that takes us deep into the life force known as Qi (pronounced “chi”).

The Origin of Acupressure

The concept of Qi is central to the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine. This life energy, or Qi, is believed to flow through invisible pathways known as meridians. When this flow is smooth and balanced, we experience health and well-being. But when the flow of Qi is blocked or disrupted, it can lead to discomfort, pain, or illness.

Acupressure, like its cousin acupuncture, is designed to help restore the balance of Qi. By applying pressure to specific points along the meridians, this technique can help clear blockages and restore the smooth flow of life energy. This concept of energy flow is also echoed in other forms of traditional medicine, such as Ayurveda and reflexology.

The Science Behind Acupressure

While the concept of Qi and meridians may seem mystical, there’s a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the effectiveness of acupressure. Let’s delve a little deeper into the science behind this ancient healing art.

Acupressure points in the hand

The Concept of Life Energy

In traditional Chinese medicine, health is seen as a state of balance between the complementary forces of yin and yang. These forces, or energies, are aspects of the life force known as Qi. When yin and yang are in balance, Qi flows smoothly through the meridians, bringing nourishment and energy to every cell, organ, and system in the body.

But what happens when this balance is disrupted? According to traditional Chinese medicine, disruptions in the flow of Qi can lead to a variety of health issues, from minor aches and pains to chronic illnesses. This is where acupressure comes in. By applying pressure to specific points along the meridians, acupressure can help restore the balance of Qi and promote health and wellness.

Meridians in the Body

Meridians are like invisible highways that carry Qi throughout the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, there are 14 major meridians that connect our organs with other parts of the body. These meridians form a complex network that carries Qi, blood, and information between our organs and tissues.

Each meridian is associated with a specific organ and corresponds to a specific element, color, emotion, and aspect of the soul. For example, the liver meridian is associated with the element of wood, the color green, the emotion of anger, and the soul’s aspect of planning and decision-making.

By understanding the relationships between the meridians, organs, and various aspects of our being, practitioners of can help address a wide range of physical, emotional, and spiritual issues. This holistic approach to health and wellness is one of the reasons why acupressure has been a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Acupuncture Points and Their Significance

The meridians are dotted with hundreds of acupuncture points, or acupoints. These points are like gates or switches that can influence the flow of Qi in the meridians. By applying pressure to these points, practitioners can help regulate the flow of Qi and restore balance to the body.

Each acupoint has a specific location and function. Some points are used to tonify or strengthen Qi, while others are used to disperse or release blocked Qi. Some points have a calming effect, while others can stimulate the body’s energy. By choosing the right points, an acupressure practitioner can tailor the treatment to the individual’s needs and conditions.

The Acupressure Technique

Now that we’ve explored the theory behind acupressure, let’s take a closer look at the technique itself. How is it performed, and what can you expect during a treatment?

How Does Acupressure Work?

Acupressure is usually performed with the fingers, especially the thumb, but it can also be done with the elbow or with various devices. The practitioner applies pressure to specific acupoints, either in a static manner or with rhythmic movements. The pressure can be light or deep, depending on the condition being treated and the individual’s sensitivity.

During a session, you may feel a variety of sensations, from a mild tingling to a sensation of warmth or heaviness. Some points may feel tender or sore, but you should not feel any sharp pain. If the pressure is too strong or if you feel discomfort, it’s important to let the practitioner know so they can adjust the pressure accordingly.

The Role of Physical Pressure

The physical pressure applied during the session can have several effects. First, it can stimulate the nervous system, triggering a cascade of effects such as increased blood flow, reduced muscle tension, and enhanced endorphin production. These effects can help relieve pain, improve circulation, promote relaxation, and boost the body’s healing capabilities.

Second, the pressure can stimulate the acupoints, influencing the flow of Qi in the meridians. This can help clear blockages, balance the yin and yang energies, and promote the smooth flow of Qi. As a result, acupressure can help address a wide range of health issues, from headaches and digestive problems to stress and insomnia.

Ashi Trigger Points: What Are They?

In addition to the traditional acupoints, acupressure also makes use of ashi points, or trigger points. These are points of tenderness or discomfort that can be found anywhere on the body. They are not located on the traditional meridians, but they can be very effective in relieving pain and tension.

Using acupressure for ashi trigger points

Ashi points are often used in conjunction with traditional acupoints to enhance the effectiveness of the treatment. By applying pressure to these points, the practitioner can help release muscle tension, improve circulation, and promote the body’s self-healing capabilities.

The Benefits of Acupressure

Now that we’ve explored the ins and outs of acupressure, let’s delve into the myriad benefits this ancient technique offers. From pain relief to better sleep, this technique has a lot to offer on your wellness journey.

Pain Relief

One of the most well-known benefits of acupressure is its ability to relieve pain. Whether it’s a headache, back pain, or menstrual cramps, acupressure can provide a natural and effective way to manage pain. By applying pressure to specific points, it can help release tension, improve circulation, and stimulate the body’s natural painkillers, known as endorphins.

In fact, a study published in the National Library of Medicine found that acupressure can be as effective as medication in reducing pain in people with certain conditions. So, the next time you’re grappling with a headache or a sore back, consider giving it a try.


But acupressure isn’t just for pain relief. It can also be a godsend for those struggling with nausea and vomiting, especially those caused by pregnancy or chemotherapy. One particular point, known as P6 or Nei Guan, is often used to alleviate nausea. Located on the inner forearm, this point can be stimulated to help calm the stomach and reduce feelings of nausea.

A Cochrane review found that acupressure can be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. So, if morning sickness is making your pregnancy a bit rocky, finding a therapist who offers it as part of a prenatal massage might just be the soothing balm you need.

Help with Insomnia?

If counting sheep isn’t helping you catch those elusive Z’s, acupressure might be worth a shot. Certain points, like the Anmian point located on the back of the neck, are known to promote sleep and relaxation. By stimulating these points, it scan help quiet the mind, relax the body, and pave the way for a good night’s sleep.

Low Back Pain

Low back pain is a common complaint, and it’s one that acupressure can help with. Applying pressure to points like the Yaoyangguan point in the lower back can help relieve tension, improve circulation, and alleviate pain. Plus, it’s a natural and non-invasive approach, making it a great option for those who prefer to avoid medication or surgery.

Acupressure vs. Other Techniques

With so many different massage techniques out there, you might be wondering how acupressure stacks up. Let’s take a look at how it compares to other techniques, and why it might be the perfect addition to your wellness routine.

Acupressure and Acupuncture: A Quick Comparison

Acupressure and acupuncture are like two sides of the same coin. Both are based on the concept of Qi and the meridian system, and both aim to restore balance and promote health. But while acupuncture uses thin needles to stimulate the acupoints, acupressure uses physical pressure, often applied with the fingers or hands.

This makes acupressure a great option for those who are needle-shy or prefer a more hands-on approach. Plus, with a bit of training, you can even learn to perform acupressure on yourself, making it a versatile and accessible tool for self-care.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

While acupressure is a part of traditional Chinese medicine, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Traditional Chinese medicine is a holistic system that includes a range of therapies, from herbal medicine to dietary therapy, Tai Chi, and Qigong.

acupressure 4

Acupressure, with its focus on the meridian system and Qi, fits perfectly into this holistic approach. It can be used alongside other therapies to enhance their effectiveness and promote overall wellness. So, whether you’re sipping on a herbal decoction or practicing Tai Chi, acupressure can be a valuable addition to your traditional Chinese medicine regimen.

How Does Acupressure Compare to Other Massage Techniques?

When it comes to massage techniques, there’s a whole world to explore. From the soothing strokes of Swedish massage to the targeted pressure of trigger point therapy, each technique has its unique approach and benefits. So, how does acupressure fit into this diverse landscape? Let’s dive in and compare it to other popular massage techniques.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is probably what most people think of when they hear the word “massage.” It’s known for its long, flowing strokes, kneading movements, and a focus on relaxation and stress relief. Swedish massage primarily works on the muscles and soft tissues, aiming to increase blood flow, relieve tension, and promote relaxation.

On the other hand, acupressure focuses on the meridians and acupoints, aiming to balance the body’s energy or Qi. While Swedish massage might help you relax and unwind, acupressure goes a step further, addressing specific health issues and promoting overall wellness.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage, as the name suggests, targets the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. It uses slow, deliberate strokes and deep pressure to relieve chronic tension and pain. It’s often used to address specific issues like chronic back pain, muscle injuries, or postural problems.

Acupressure, while also capable of addressing specific health issues, does so in a different way. Instead of targeting the muscles, it targets the meridians and acupoints, aiming to balance the body’s energy and address the root causes of health issues.

Geriatric Massage

Geriatric massage is a form of massage designed to meet the specific needs of the elderly. It uses gentle and light application of massage techniques and can include passive stretching and a light oil or lotion to permit muscles to be worked on without causing excessive friction to the skin.

Acupressure, with its gentle and non-invasive approach, can be a great option for the elderly. It can help address common issues like arthritis pain, sleep problems, and digestion issues. Plus, it can be easily adapted to the individual’s needs and comfort level.

Neuromuscular Therapy

Neuromuscular therapy is a specialized form of deep tissue massage that aims to treat underlying causes of chronic pain involving the muscular and nervous systems. This medically-oriented form of massage addresses trigger points, circulation, nerve compression, postural issues, and biomechanical problems that can be caused by repetitive movement injuries.

While neuromuscular therapy focuses on the interaction between the nervous and muscular systems, acupressure focuses on the body’s energy system. By applying pressure to specific acupoints, acupressure aims to balance the flow of Qi and address a wide range of health issues.

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger point therapy focuses on releasing trigger points, which are tight knots within muscle tissue that can cause pain in other parts of the body. This technique involves applying pressure to these points to relieve tension and pain.

Acupressure, while similar in its use of pressure points, differs in its overall approach. Instead of focusing on muscle knots, acupressure focuses on acupoints along the body’s meridians. These points are stimulated to balance the body’s energy and promote overall wellness.

Aromatherapy Massage

Aromatherapy massage combines the therapeutic benefits of massage with the power of essential oils. This type of massage can help reduce stress, boost mood, and promote relaxation. The oils are chosen based on the individual’s needs and are believed to have various healing properties.

Acupressure, on the other hand, doesn’t typically involve the use of oils. Instead, it focuses on stimulating specific acupoints to balance the body’s energy and promote health. However, like aromatherapy massage, acupressure can also help reduce stress, boost mood, and promote relaxation.

Sports Massage

Sports massage is designed to help athletes prepare their bodies for optimal performance, recover after a big event, or function well during training. It emphasizes the prevention and healing of injuries to the muscles and tendons.

While acupressure can certainly be beneficial for athletes, its approach is different. Acupressure aims to balance the body’s energy, which can help improve overall wellness, boost energy, and speed up recovery. Plus, it can address specific issues like pain, stress, and sleep problems, which can all impact athletic performance.

How to Perform Acupressure

Now that we’ve compared acupressure to other techniques, let’s take a closer look at how it’s performed. Whether you’re planning to visit a practitioner or try it out yourself, here’s what you need to know.

Basic Guidelines

Acupressure is a technique that requires precision and sensitivity. It’s important to apply pressure to the right points and to use the right amount of pressure. Too much pressure can cause discomfort or bruising, while too little pressure might not have the desired effect.

When performing acupressure, it’s important to relax and breathe deeply. This can help you tune into your body and enhance the effectiveness of the treatment. It’s also important to communicate with your practitioner (or with yourself as the case may be) about the pressure and any sensations you’re feeling.

Common Acupressure Points and How to Stimulate Them

There are hundreds of acupressure points on the body, but some are especially popular due to their effectiveness for common issues. For example, the Large Intestine 4 point (located on the hand) is often used for headaches and pain, while the Pericardium 6 point (on the inner forearm) is known for relieving nausea and anxiety.

To stimulate a point, apply firm but gentle pressure with your finger, thumb, or a special device. You can either press and hold the point or make small circular movements. Listen to your body and adjust the pressure as needed.

Safety Measures and Precautions

While acupressure is generally safe, there are some precautions to keep in mind. For example, certain points should be avoided during pregnancy, and some points should not be used in people with certain health conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

We know that acupressure can seem a bit mystifying, especially if you’re new to it. So, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help clear up any confusion and get you on the path to understanding and enjoying the benefits of acupressure.

What is the Difference Between Acupressure and Acupuncture?

While both acupressure and acupuncture stem from traditional Chinese medicine and aim to balance the body’s Qi, the methods they use are different. Acupuncture uses thin needles inserted into the skin at specific points, while acupressure uses physical pressure applied to these points. This makes acupressure a great option for those who are uncomfortable with needles.

Can I Perform Acupressure on Myself?

Absolutely! One of the great things about acupressure is that you can do it yourself. With a bit of knowledge and practice, you can use acupressure to help manage a variety of health issues, from headaches and stress to digestive problems and insomnia. Just remember to always listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional if you’re unsure.

How Often Should I Do Acupressure?

The frequency of acupressure can vary depending on your individual needs and goals. Some people might benefit from daily acupressure, while others might find that a few times a week is enough. It’s always a good idea to start slowly and see how your body responds before increasing the frequency.

Are There Any Risks or Side Effects to Acupressure?

Acupressure is generally safe, but like any therapy, it can have potential risks or side effects. These can include soreness at the pressure points, light-headedness, or emotional release. It’s always important to communicate with your practitioner about any discomfort or side effects you experience.

Can Acupressure Help with Migraines?

Yes, acupressure can be a helpful tool for managing migraines. Certain points, like the Large Intestine 4 point on the hand, are known for their ability to relieve headaches and migraines. However, it’s important

to remember that everyone is different, and what works for one person might not work for another. Always consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Is Acupressure Effective for Anxiety?

Acupressure can be a useful tool for managing anxiety. By helping to balance the body’s energy and promote relaxation, acupressure can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. However, it’s important to note that acupressure is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment. If you’re struggling with anxiety, it’s important to seek help from a qualified healthcare provider.

Can Acupressure Help with Weight Loss?

While acupressure isn’t a magic bullet for weight loss, it can support your weight loss efforts by helping to balance your body’s energy, reduce stress, and improve digestion. Remember, a healthy diet and regular exercise are the cornerstones of any successful weight loss program.

How Long Does It Take for Acupressure to Work?

The effects of acupressure can vary from person to person. Some people might feel immediate relief after a session, while others might notice improvements gradually over time. It’s important to be patient and consistent with your acupressure practice.

Acupressure in Practice

Now that we’ve answered some common questions about acupressure, let’s explore how you can incorporate this ancient technique into your everyday life.

When to Use Acupressure

Acupressure can be used anytime you’re feeling out of balance or experiencing discomfort. Whether you’re dealing with a headache, feeling stressed, or struggling with nausea, acupressure can provide a natural and effective way to manage your symptoms. Remember, it’s always important to listen to your body and seek professional advice when needed.

Who Can Benefit from Acupressure?

Just about anyone can benefit from acupressure! Whether you’re dealing with chronic pain, stress, digestive issues, or just looking to improve your overall wellness, acupressure has something to offer. However, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new health regimen.

Finding a Qualified Acupressure Practitioner

While you can certainly perform acupressure on yourself, working with a qualified practitioner can provide a more in-depth and personalized experience. A skilled practitioner can help identify your unique needs and tailor the treatment to your specific conditions. You can find qualified practitioners through professional organizations, online directories, or by asking for recommendations from trusted sources.

Embracing Acupressure as Part of Your Wellness Journey

Whether you’re new to acupressure or a seasoned pro, we hope this article has given you a deeper understanding of this ancient technique and its many benefits. Please check out the rest of our Ultimate Guide to Massage and Bodywork Techniques, we’re all about helping you achieve your body goals whether or not we provide the service at That’s the Rub. So, what’s YOUR goal today? Embrace the power of acupressure and take the next step on your wellness journey.

Ready to experience the power of acupressure for yourself? At That’s the Rub, we offer a variety of services that incorporate the techniques, tailored to your unique body goals. Whether you’re in Bloomington, Indiana, Indiana University, or planning to visit, we’re here to help you on your wellness journey. Explore our services and book an appointment today:


For more in-depth information on acupressure, we encourage you to explore the following resources:

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Acupressure Points and Massage Treatment.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 20 Feb. 2021, www.mayoclinic.org.
  • “Acupressure.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org.
  • “Acupressure.” University of Michigan Health, www.uofmhealth.org.
Understanding Acupressure: A Journey Through Time and Pressure Points