The Beginners Guide to Acupressure Massage Therapy

by Annie Jones

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Worry not! There are no needles involved in acupressure. Don’t be fooled by the similarity of the words “acupressure” and “acupuncture”. 

Acupressure is a very gentle type of massage that does use the same Chinese philosophy as acupuncture. Both focus on the important points of the body that can improve the patient's well-being, but, as the name suggests, it only includes the usage of hands to apply pressure to the patient and not needles.


The basics


You may have previously heard about Shiatsu massage and this is probably the most famous style of acupressure. Therapists in these kinds of massages use their hands, mostly thumbs, fingers and palms to create pressure to the designated points of the body.

There are various styles that have different patterns and techniques, but the basic principle is always the same – to manipulate and even out the flow of the natural body’s energy known in Eastern philosophies as chi or qi.

Sometimes the chi gets congested or blocked in certain areas in the body which causes all kinds of medical problems. By addressing and properly manipulating these problematic points, the chi runs smooth and the body is in balance. This balance is also well known to the Western world as yin and yang, the harmony of opposites.

But, as almost every traditional Eastern healing method does, acupressure is not only concerned about the body, but also the other dimensions of a person: emotional, spiritual and rational. The chi unites these qualities, but when the balance is broken, acupressure is there to help.


Types of points in the body


acupressure massage

There are two basic types of acupressure points or acupoints. Local points are the actual places or areas where the patient feels the pain or any similar sensation. For instance, if you have a back pain, your back is the focal point.

However, the most important ones are trigger points. These are the specific points which can be found in every human body that are associated with certain organs or body parts and can directly influence them. Traditional Chinese medicine proclaimed that there are fourteen meridians inside the human body that carry the energy around our organs, muscles, tissues, and bones.

The acupoints that are triggered by the acupressure massage are nothing but points on these meridians. There are over 800 energy points spread across these meridians and all of them can be used for relieving pain, relaxing and more.


Prevention is better than the cure


acupressure massage

It should be noted that acupressure is more concerned about prevention than it is about curing serious illnesses. As it was explained earlier, this technique serves to maintain the natural balance of the body and the flow of energy. In common medicinal terms, this would mean that the treatment helps with reducing tension, improving circulation, and relaxing the body as a whole. It should never be misinterpreted as a way of curing serious illnesses.

That said, in some cases, it can be effective even when the symptoms become obvious. Acupressure therapy is known to relieve headaches, sinus problems, different kinds of muscle tensions and aches, and back pain. Some more complex issues it can help with are menstrual cramps, digestive system issues, and ulcer problems.


What can you expect when you go to an acupressure session?


Depending on the problems that you have, the session will differ, but there are still some common key body points that are likely to be treated most of the times. You can expect the stimulation of the key energy points that are located on feet, legs, and along the spine.

The duration of the session can vary but nothing out of the common. Also, when the therapist examines your symptoms, he may ask you to lie down or sit during the massage.


Tools for acupressure massage


acupressure feet

Throughout the years, some tools and objects have been used for acupressure. Some of these tools and equipment are very common, and some individuals actually aren’t aware that they involve aspects of acupressure. The most famous example might be the wristbands known as balance bands that are used in the prevention of motion sickness or nausea. What these items do is to stimulate one of the key acupoints on the wrist that help with nausea.

Other tools for performing acupressure massage are the energy roller, acubail, acupressure mat, teishein and others. The acupressure mat is a simple but effective tool that you can use every day at home. It looks somewhat unorthodox since it resembles a bed of nails used by fakirs, but instead of nails it’s surface is covered with small plastic flowers that hold the whole weight of your body comfortably. After just 15 minutes of lying on it every day, you feel an improvement in the quality of sleep, having less stress and a better blood circulation.



Acupressure massage is one of the very few massage techniques that you can perform on yourself with the same or similar results as if someone else did it. Of course, not all key points are available this way but some of the most important ones found in hands and legs are easy to stimulate.

Therapists that have experience in self-massage say that it keeps their body and mind relaxed and well rested even after hours of hard, and in their case, physically demanding work.


Are there any side effects?

Generally speaking, acupressure massage is very safe and can be used by anyone. Of course, patients with serious issues like cancer, heart conditions or severe arthritis should consult with their doctor about the treatment. There are still some cases when you should avoid this kind of massage. In the cases of spinal injury or problems with bone diseases, physical manipulations present in this kind of massage is not advised.

You should always check if the acupressure practitioner is licensed because this is a massage that does include moving your joints. And remember to drink a lot of liquids, preferably water after each session in order to clear away any toxins that have been released during the process.

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Want to learn more about the principles of acupressure? Go on a retreat in China and combine it with yoga!

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