The principles and origins of acupressure stem from the same branch of ancient Chinese medicine as acupuncture. Both are designed with a focus on the energy, or ‘chi’, that flows within our bodies via a network of ‘meridians’ or channels. This network connects our organs within a communication system that we can tap into.
To maintain a healthy flow of our energy is the goal, and the key to wellness. When there are blockages, imbalances, or limitations to that flow we may experience physical issues. The target points or ‘acupoints’ in acupressure are the same as those in acupuncture, and lie along the twelve major meridians within the body, beginning at the tips of our fingers, running through to the brain and then channelling to organs associated with particular meridians. Acupressure can help significantly relieve and rebalance physical difficulties that may be experienced due to blockages in our energy channels.
Acupressure, in contrast with acupuncture, does not use needles or generally any instruments except for the hands, feet, elbows, etc. of the person carrying out the procedure. These body parts are the tools used to apply pressure to specific points on the patient where blockages are thought to lie. Pressure is applied to the ‘acupoints’ using the chosen tool as well as stretching and massage to release the blockage. If you want to go even further into the potential effects of acupressure, some practitioners believe that they can personally transmit their own positive energy on to the patient, others claim that it treats the mind and spirit, as well as the body. Science will argue that muscle tension can be reduced due to the pressure and massage, which in turn can improve circulation and receive pain via the release of endorphins.
There are literally hundreds of ‘acupoints’ on and around the body, so to pinpoint the effective one for your personal issue is important. For example, the liver relates directly to the fleshy part between the big toe and second toe.
An example of a mainstream version of acupressure is recognisable as the wristbands with a piece that presses into the soft side of the wrist, usually worn to prevent or aid motion sickness and nausea.
Acupressure can help with many physical afflictions but today we are focussing on the exciting premise that, according to a recent study, it could ease lower back pain. This is exciting news for millions of people who consistently suffer from this affliction, and to add to the positive potential breakthrough, it may also be self-administered meaning it would not be essential to visit a practitioner in times of need.
Susan Murphy, ScD, OTR; associate professor of physical medicine at Michigan Medicine led the study about which she claims “while acupressure has been previously studied — and found to be beneficial — in people with cancer-related or osteoarthritis pain, there are few studies that have examined acupressure in people with back pain”.
During the study 67 sufferers of lower back pain were treated in three different ways; the first being relaxing acupressure, second, stimulating acupressure and the third, regular treatment.
“Relaxing acupressure is thought to be effective in reducing insomnia, while stimulating acupressure is thought to be effective in fatigue reduction,” Murphy says.
The results showed that when those in the acupressure groups (having been trained how) applied pressure to specific points for half an hour per day over a six week course, their pain was significantly reduced, compared to those who continued their regular treatments.
The alternative treatments to chronic pain more often than not involve strong medications which have side effects and are often negative to our health. Acupressure, while not a complete treatment works to ease pain and improve quality of life. The idea that this can be achieved at home, by yourself, without any equipment, costs or negative side effects is an added bonus.
“This study highlights the benefits of a non-pharmacological treatment option that patients could perform easily on their own and see positive results” claims Murphy, “although larger studies are needed, acupressure may be a useful pain management strategy given that it is low risk, low cost and easy to administer.”
To try this at home, it is generally recommended that you first visit a professional practitioner to get the technique right (or try our self-study course on Acupressure here). These are the most popular and effective ‘acupoints’ for lower back pain:
The CV6 acupressure point is located two finger widths below the belly button. Apply firm pressure to this point with one or two fingertips.
These points are named B23 and B47; two finger widths and four finger widths respectively from the spine at waste level on each side of the spine. Put your hands resting on your waist and direct your thumbs to these points to apply firm pressure.
Two finger widths from the large bony area at the bottom of your spine (B48), and midway between the top of your hipbone and the base of your buttocks (GB30). Apply gentle pressure with both thumbs on these pressure points on either side.
Behind the knee you have two ‘acupoints’ B54 is at the centre of this area, B53 is slightly towards the outer side. Either sit with legs straight or stand and place your hands on the side of your knee. Apply firm pressure to the points in the hollow of your knee using your index or middle fingertips.
This point, known as 4GI works when you lay down. Find the squishy spot between the thumb and the index finger (two finger widths from the joints). Using your other hand squeeze with the thumb and index finger on either side of the point. Hold and release 5 times. Repeat on the other hand.
Lay on your bak and bend one knee, reach for the foot and locate the spot two finger widths up between your big and second toes. Apply medium to strong pressure with your thumb or index finger. Repeat on the other foot.
Online diploma course in Acupressure
Our Acupressure course is open to both practicing therapists and individuals who have an interest to learn this skill. It’s an in-depth course that will lead you step-by-step through the treatment sequence and teach you everything you need to know to become a professional in the field.