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Acupressure Points: How Do They Work in Massage?

Acupressure is a massage therapy technique based on the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that uses finger pressure to mobilize chi — or life force energy — at specific spots on the body called acupressure points, which are also known as acupuncture points or acupoints. These acupressure points are physical locations where chi can be accessed to release blocked or congested energy centers in the body, promoting unobstructed chi flow for health and well-being.

How Does Acupressure Work?

Acupressure massage therapy stimulates and activates the body’s own healing energies to prevent illness. Acupressure massage therapy practitioners will press on specific points to promote energy flow to a part of the body that is experiencing disease or discomfort, enabling it to heal more quickly.

Acupressure practitioners use their fingers, palms, elbows or feet, or special devices to apply pressure to acupoints on the body's meridians. Sometimes, acupressure also involves stretching or acupressure massage, as well as other methods.

The practitioner gently presses on acupressure points on your body. A session typically lasts about one hour. You may need several sessions for the best results.

What are the major acupressure points?

There are literally hundreds of acupuncture points on the body -- too many to name. Here are three that are commonly used by acupuncturists and acupressure practitioners:

  • ST 36: Find the bony point right under your kneecap, then move slightly outside the knee to find a small divot. That's Stomach 36, and it's used for indigestion, nausea, constipation, etc.

  • LI 4: If you've ever applied pressure to the high point between your pointer finger and thumb, you were massaging Large Intestine 4, aka the "great eliminator." It's one of the most popular acupressure points for headaches and migraines. It's also thought to induce labor during pregnancy.

  • GB 21: Gallbladder 21 is a well-known point used to relieve neck and shoulder tension from excess stress. It's located on the back side of either shoulder, between your neck and the point where your arm meets your shoulder.

  • Yin Tang: If your yoga teacher has ever had you massage your "third eye" between your eyebrows, you were kneading the Yin Tang point. Mild pressure on the point is said to promote stress relief and relaxation.

  • PC 6: Pericardium 6 is located on the inside of the wrist and is used for pregnancy-induced nausea or motion sickness. (It's the point that motion sickness bracelets press.)

What is acupressure used for?

There are hundreds of acupressure points on the body, corresponding to other parts of the body. (For example, there's a point on your hand for your kidney.) So, naturally, the practice has many associated benefits.

From helping you get restful sleep to relieving anxiety and stress, acupressure is known to be beneficial in a number of health concerns. Acupressure is often used for pain relief, and studies have suggested it may help fight back pain, menstrual cramps, and headaches. It is also effective in preventative health care maintenance. The practice is used for many other purposes that have been studied less, including immune system and digestion support.

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