"Acupressure" can be used as both a generic (or broad) term and as a specific treatment. Some people say that any treatment that stimulates the acupressure points using whatever degree of pressure is acupressure.  This broad definition would then encompass a large number of other treatments including Shiatsu, Acupuncture and many more.  This broad meaning of acupressure also encompasses people who learn to 'do acupressure' on themselves by stimulating acupressure points (for example when they have a headache or to enable themselves to sleep better).

Acupressure involves putting pressure of varying degrees on the acupressure points in the body.  Various acupressure points are responsible for or connected to specific organs and systems in the body (see the theory of Acupressure below) and by applying pressure, the interruption or blockage in the flow of energy is released and the body returns to balance and to health.  Acupressure has its origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It is classified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), the primary certifying body in North America, as a type of oriental bodywork, and it is frequently practiced by people who are also certified in various types of massage therapy.

The Theory of Acupressure

Since Acupressure evolved from acupuncture, it is also considered a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that is based on a philosophy of the “yin” and the “yang”. The “yin” and the “yang” are the two opposite yet complimentary forces that underlie all aspects of life. Under the same philosophy, it is believed that human body has key points located along the lines of energy called meridians.  There are 14 meridian lines in the human body and these meridians are said to be connected to all organs in the body : visceral internal organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, etc and up to body surface (to muscles, bones, limbs, etc. When energy flows freely, the body is in balance and healthy. When human experience pain or suffers from an illness, it is because there is an interruption or blockage in the flow of the energy.

 Acupressure is used to relieve different illnesses and pains. Unlike Acupuncture that uses needles in its procedure to stimulates these key points, Acupressure therapy stimulates through the use of pressure. It involves physical pressure by the use of hands, elbow, or with the help of different devices.

Acupressure has different facets that are useful in diagnosing illnesses as well as curing them. It is also the third most popular method for treating pain and illness in the world. This complete health system have helped millions of people throughout the globe and has been documented for use in treating over 3000 conditions i.e. stress, anxiety, asthma, fibromyalgia, headaches, etc

Conditions that Acupressure has been known to help:

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Frequently Asked Questions About Acupressure

What is an Acupressure Session Like?

During an acupressure session, the patient remains fully dressed and most of the work will be performed on the patient’s hands and/or feet. Patients will still be asked to lie on a massage table or a relaxing surface but no essential oils are usually applied. Like many other therapies, during your first session you can expect the acupressurist to do a consultation with you.  They will be asking about your primary concern (i.e. what brings you to see them), your health condition, the symptoms of any illnesses and what other treatments you may have tried or be trying.  The Therapist usually uses traditional Chinese medicine practices to diagnose the patient (for example: examining your tongue to look for any swelling, redness, etc).

In general, during the session, the acupressure practitioner will choose different key points on which to press gently, with the key points selected depending on the illness or symptoms that have been discussed during the consultative section of the first session. Patients can expect to feel the pressure of the therapist's hands (fingers) but it should not be painful. If the pressure being applied is too much for the patient to handle, you can tell the therapist, but this is rare.

How Long is a Normal Course of Acupressure Treatment and What Does it Cost?

An average acupressure session typically lasts between 30 minutes and an hour.  Costs can range from $30 to $150 per session. The number of sessions you need will depend on the illness or symptoms being treated.  The usual course of treatment may involve visiting the therapist once a week for six sessions. Some effects of the therapy may last longer than others depending on the symptoms being treated. For example, a patient who comes in to seek relief from headaches may need and feel better after just once session, while a patient who comes in to relieve anxiety may need at least six sessions to achieve the full desired result.  Note that these examples are only descriptive and the actual number of sessions may vary depending on your condition and the initial consultation with the Acupressure therapist.

How to Select an Acupressurist

Training/Accreditation for Acupressure Therapists

Acupressure professionals may earn certificates and degrees at colleges/universities, accredited massage schools and independent facilities and even through online study.

Like other Traditional Chinese Medicine practices (although indeed more for Acupressure than for many others), the requirements to practice Acupressure therapy may vary from state to state, but they generally include a training program in massage therapy and an examination for licensing.   Most of the states usually require 500 hours or more of study in subjects like anatomy, physiology, aromatherapy, nutrition, ethics and methods of massage in a program accredited by the state board or a national organization.  Most certifications will also require a grounding in the theory and practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, to differing extents.

National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA) are the two leading nationally accredited agencies for training. Their accredited formal education programs prepare their students for state licensing exams.

There are about 37 states that use National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) examinations for licensing purposes. Recertification must be completed every four years. Unlike NCBTMB, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) who administer the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) do not have specific education or eligibility requirements for a practitioner to take the MBLEx exam. They also don’t require recertification, so candidates possess certification for life.

People with certifications in Acupressure are more likely to be part of a massage therapy type of program than to have an Acupuncture certification.  For example, they may end up eligible to become certified Asian Bodywork Therapists (ABT) by the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA) or may qualify to take the Asian Bodywork Therapy exam given by the NCCAOM and then be certified as Diplomate of Asian Bodywork Therapy (Dipl ABT).  Even though Acupressure and Acupuncture are very close cousins, Acupuncturists will be certified specifically in Acupuncture will the Acupressure practitioners will usually be certified in Massage/Bodywork.  And regulation for certification in Acupuncture is much more tightly controlled than for certification in Acupressure.

Because of the diversity of certifications possible for Acupressure practitioners, it can be difficult to determine whether or not the therapist has degress of acupressure training you might desire. Therefore, it is best to discuss training with the acupressure therapist and ask them to describe the type of training they have completed. You can also ask whether they are also certified in Acupressure or in other types of massage therapy.  You can also ask your therapist for references if you are uncertain about their degree of expertise or experience.

History of Acupressure

There are some forms of Acupressure that began in India. But generally Acupressure is said to have been discovered in China more than 5,000 years ago and it is closely related to and derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Practitioners learned that pressing certain points on the body could relieve pain. Acupressure was then discovered to relieve pain not only where the treatment was applied, but also in other part of the body that were not being treated directly. Acupressure was additionally found to influence the proper functioning of internal organs. Other benefits that are believed to be the result of Acupressure therapy are relaxation and relief from stress.

Over the years, surrounding countries like Japan and Thailand adopted acupressure and put their own mark and style on it.

In Europe the earliest evidence of the awareness of meridian systems was found in the Alps. "Oetzi the Iceman", a 5,000 year old mummy, was found preserved in the Alps and had tattoos, many of  which corresponded to the key points that an acupuncturist would use to treat illnesses.

Acupressure philosophy and key point stimulation is based on the same philosophy as Acupuncture. Both use key points in the human body to treat illnesses and to restore balance. The difference is how stimulation is applied; the practice of Acupuncture uses thread-like needle while Acupressure uses touch the experience of Acupressure may feel more like a massage.

Reflexology and Acupressure are very similar to Acupressure in a number of ways, but they are separate treatment options with some similarities. Acupressure treatment uses the key points in the whole body to treat while Reflexology focuses on key points on the feet, hands, ears and face. Reflexology like Acupressure, has different forms.  Acupuncture uses extremely fine needs, while Acupressure is using the pressure from the therapist's fingers.  Traditionally Acupuncture and Acupressure have sometimes been used together, with Acupressure being used between Acupuncture sessions in particularly challenging cases.

Questions and Comments about Acupressure

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zeina Nelson 2016-04-18 04:52
I live in Ottawa, Ontario and wondering where I can take courses on Acupressure.

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