|Nearly 4,000 years before Western medicine touted a
pill for every pain, indigenous peoples across the globe were long
practicing one of the oldest pain-relieving therapies to date. Without
the benefit of medical knowledge, but with the insight that stimulating
points in the body enhances the balance of energy, ancient cultures
intuitively grasped a hands-on remedy for easing pain. Using thumbs,
fingers, knuckles, palms and elbows, early acupressure practitioners
pushed on tender spots, triggering the release of pain-relieving
neurotransmitters and restoring the bodys natural healing abilities.
Techniques varied from country to country, even from city to city,
but the benefits of acupressure were far-reaching: This primal science
was used by nearly everybody to treat medical maladies as diverse
as headaches, cough, menstrual problems and constipation. Akin to
acupuncture without needles, acupressure focuses on the concept that
life-giving energy or qi (pronounced chee) circulates
throughout the body in 12 main channels, or meridians. Along these
meridians, specific acupressure points can relieve pain, inflammation
and tension; by keeping energy on the move, acupressure can help treat
or even prevent disease. The pressure applied can range from just
the weight of a finger to deep, intensive massage, a practice sometimes
Acupressure is safe, simple, non-invasive and inexpensive, and self-acupressure
techniques can be just as effective as those performed by a skilled
therapist. One of the reasons I practice acupressure is that
I can teach it to other people, says Cat Berry, LMT (licensed
massage therapist), owner of Catalyst Touch in Ithaca, NY, whos
been applying acupressure for 30 years.
Berry uses acupressure to treat back and neck pain, fatigue, jaw tension,
womens hormonal issues, emotional and mood imbalances, digestive
upset and sleep disturbances, teaching clients self-acupressure along
the way. People with no background can learn a series of points
that they can easily apply to themselves, says Berry. The
body learns to rebalance itself.
You dont have to be a licensed anything to apply pressure to
minor ills. Since acupressure can be self-learned and administered
at home, nearly anyone can help ease chronic pain and improve overall
health by literally lending themselves a hand.
For the uninitiated, relief from everyday ailments like indigestion,
headache, nausea and neck pain may be just an acupressure point away.
Even the misery of allergies can vanish with the right technique:
Steady pressure on the lower, outer corner of each nostril can reduce
the anguish of seasonal sneezing and nasal symptoms. To take a break
from that aching head, apply pressure to the indentation in the middle
of the eyebrow, just above the pupil, or push on the point between
the webbing of the thumb and the index finger.
To get the most out of a self-acupressure treatment, set aside quiet
time. After locating the point or points where you are going to apply
pressure, push down using your thumb or fingers. Starting with a light
touch, adjust the pressure accordingly and hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
Soreness indicates a blockage, but do not press or massage to the
point of severe pain. Repeat five to 10 times or until the pressure
helps relieve symptoms; temporary soreness of the acupressure point
is common and normal. Since chronic conditions such as neck pain or
anxiety didnt crop up overnight, these types of disorders require
Just how acupressure works is open to debate. Hands-on modalities
like acupressure are recognized as legitimate medical techniques and
are used by tens of thousands of clinicians each year, yet science
has yet to verify exactly how these treatments work. One theory is
that the brain responds to pressure on certain points by releasing
chemicals that activate the immune system into healing mode, as well
as pain-relieving endorphins. Acupressure may also enhance electrical
flow along nerves and between cells, improve blood and lymphatic circulation,
and calm muscle tension.
Allen Fein, MD, believes that acupressure, in combination with other
hands-on techniques, balances the human energy field and elicits physiological
changes. At his practice in Southampton, NY, Dr. Fein, Chief of the
Department of Family Practice at Southampton Hospital, employs acupressure
to reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis. He also uses it in treating
fatigue, anxiety and back pain.
At its core, acupressure is an instinctive reaction; when a child
stubs a toe, he or she immediately rubs the painful digit. Since we
already understand acupressure on an instinctual level, Fein suggests
that nearly everyone learn more: There are no boundaries to
someone learning acupressure. Its really the ultimate self-help,
Acupressure Techniques: A Self-Help Guide (Healing Arts Press), by
Julian Kenyon, MD, provides easy-to-follow diagrams and guidelines
for the inexperienced layperson. For more comprehensive information
on acupressure, contact the Acupressure Institute, located in Berkeley,
California, by calling 1-800-442-2232 or by visiting www.acupressure.com.
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