A beginner’s guide to acupressure massage therapy


Acupressure has been an important form of traditional Chinese medicine employed for treating patients suffering from various ailments for thousands of years. The key to the success of the therapy lies in precise identification of acupressure points in the patient’s body and attending them. 

Massage therapy stemming from the philosophy of acupressure is carefully designed to bring about composure of both the mind and body, enhance general wellbeing and cure certain maladies. Acupressure is thought to be a treatment on similar lines as in acupuncture, another traditional Chinese medical treatment.

The only difference between the two is the absence of needles used in the latter to penetrate the dermal layer. This effective massage therapy works deep into our body and can be done by ourselves too without the aid of any practitioner.

Understanding acupressure, the traditional Chinese massage therapy:

acupressure-massage-therapyChinese massage therapy of acupressure has mapped out the human body thoroughly. Location of the most important points is believed to exist along meridians or channels. Therapy of acupressure is focused on these points.

It is also held that transmission of vital energy or more commonly the life force known as qi (chi) occurs along these invisible channels. Ancient Chinese doctors also held that 12 primary meridians inside us form a communication network taking specific organs in the loop.

Meridians start at our fingertips, form a web connecting vital organs and establish contact with our brain. Conceptually, when one of the meridians is obstructed the energy flow gets disrupted throwing our system out of equilibrium. Consequently, illness sets in. Massage therapy of acupressure is thus employed to reinstate the equilibrium.

The therapy:

acupressure-massage-therapyOnce the acupressure points of the human body are identified, the practitioner uses his fingers, elbows, feet or specific tools to put pressure on the points lying along the body’s meridians. The therapy also may assume the form of stretching and massaging.

In an acupressure treatment session that usually extends into an hour, the patient lies flat on a soft massage table. Pressure is gently applied to most important points with the target of reinstating health and balance to body’s channels through which energy flows.

The counteracting forces of Yang (positive energy) and Ying (negative energy) are thus controlled in the process and the ailment gradually removed. It is often asserted that the massage therapy of acupressure has enough curing potential to handle energy fields of mind, emotion and spirit. It is also held that an efficient acupressure practitioner can transfer vital life force Qi to a person improving his physical and mental energy.

Identifying Acupressure points:

acupressure-massage-therapyBasically, schools of acupressure treatment follow a two-way acupressure point treatment:

  • Local points: It concentrates on the areas of the body where the patient is suffering pain or discomfort. The therapist stimulates the area to alleviate the unpleasant feelings. 
  • Trigger points: Here the therapist relieves pain by stimulating some other part of the body located at a distant from the area of pain therapist is focused on.  These are the most important points.

According to the TCM, 14 meridians present within our body carry energy to various organs and tissues. The points that are triggered by acupressure massage are nothing but those resting all along the meridians. More than 800 energy points are spread all over the meridians which can be manipulated by acupressure massage therapy to reduce pain and inducing relaxation.

Health problems cured by acupressure:
Here are some health issues that can be healed by massage therapy of acupressure:

  • Nausea arising from any condition
  • Pain
  • Arthritis
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Reducing pain and other symptoms of cancer

Its curative properties can never be written off especially in cases of headaches, sinus, muscle pain, menstrual cramps, and disruption of the digestive system and ulcer issues.

Acupressure for beginners – identifying the trigger points:

acupressure-massage-therapyEven for absolute beginners, self-massaging in acupressure is not a farfetched idea. You can do it on your own self and achieve similar benefit as if someone else did it on you. But first, you will have to identify the most important points triggering pain or discomfort.

Nonetheless, the points in hands and legs can be identified and stimulated by ourselves with a little practice. For detail knowledge of other points, an expert’s consultation is recommended. You need to keep your body and mind completely relaxed even after an hour of self-massaging session. 

Getting started: 

acupressure-massage-therapyFor absolute beginners, massage therapy of acupressure when applied solo, patience and stability are important prerequisites. An instant remedy should not be expected.  With time and religious regularity of a devoted session, pain will start reducing greatly reducing the chances of recurrence.

Following is a general guideline for self-massaging:

  • Book an hour for relaxed session
  • Sit or lie down flat in a restful position.
  • Close your eyes, calm down and take deep breathing
  •  Apply firm and profound pressure in an up and down or circular motion.

Treating shoulder pain with acupressure:

shoulder painProlonged stress causes neck and shoulder pain often referred to as tension headaches. To get relief from shoulder pain, there are several pressure points, but a beginner can start with one of the most commonly used points. The easiest way to find the first one is between the thumb and the first finger.

  • Apply a firm pressure till you experience a mild pain
  • Hold for few seconds
  • Release the thumb and repeat thrice.

Treating lower back pain:

lower back painTwo main pressure points can help you in treating your lower back pain. You will find the first one on your waist.

  • Stand up straight. Lightly hold your waist with both hands with thumbs wrapping the back.
  • Keeping the thumbs in place, massage with a circular motion applying firm pressure for five seconds. Repeat the process thrice.

You can find another pressure point in the midway of your calf muscle. Apply a similar circular motion and pressure for five seconds. Release the thumb and repeat the process 2-3 times.

Treating sinus pain:

Ease Sinus PainThe region between the eyebrows is the first point of relieving sinus pain. Use your index finger or the thumb to apply pressure in a circular motion for 5 seconds.

The second pressure point is your temples. Apply pressure in a similar method described above.

The third point is the region from your temples to the sides of nostrils. Apply pressure in circular motions for 5 seconds.

An important technique of pressure application is to maintain a firm pressure but not painful. You can apply these techniques several times a day. Give a break if you develop sore muscle from the pressure. Start by applying gentle pressure and increase it gradually.

Precautions with self-guided acupressure:
Since acupressure involves deep tissues massaging, precaution is a must in certain conditions like:

  • If treatment involves a cancerous tumor and it has spread to the bones. Further application of pressure would only aggravate the condition.
  • In case of rheumatoid arthritis, spinal injury, bone infection, physical handling would turn the case in the wrong direction. 
  •  In case of pregnancy.
  • If you have varicose veins.

Massage therapy with acupressure is primarily aimed towards prevention. It is more of restoring the equilibrium of the body and mind and regulating the flow of energy. Rather than curing serious ailments, it strives to block the path of ailment from invading the body. It should not be misinterpreted as a device for remedy for the serious malady.

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