The benefits and uses of acupressure

Acupressure is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice that involves healing blocked energies, or together, by applying manual pressure to specific points on the body. It is similar to acupuncture, except it uses fingertip pressure instead of needles.

By improving energy flow, acupressure is said to help relieve a range of ailments, from motion sickness to headaches to muscle pain.

This article looks at acupressure, its uses, and the evidence for its effectiveness. It also discusses security and technology.

How does Shiatsu work?

No one is sure exactly how acupressure works. Some people believe that stress may cause the release of endorphins. These are the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals.

Others believe that stress may affect the autonomic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary things like the heart, digestion, and breathing.

According to the principles of Chinese medicine, invisible energy pathways called meridians flow through the body. At least 14 meridians are thought to connect organs to the rest of the body.

Shiatsu points are located on those meridians. If qi becomes blocked at any point along the meridian, it is thought to cause health problems along that path.

Doctors apply pressure to specific acupuncture points to restore healthy energy flow. The point they choose depends on your symptoms.

Given how the meridians function, the pressure points used may be far from the symptom site. For example, acupuncture points on the feet can be used to relieve headaches.

READ ALSO:  The link between depression and chronic pain

What is the use of acupressure?

Most people try acupressure to control the condition, such as:

  • Insomnia
  • stress management
  • headache
  • menstrual cramps
  • motion sickness
  • muscle tension and pain
  • Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting after surgery or chemotherapy
  • Cancer-related and other forms of fatigue

The benefits of acupressure

Few studies have looked at the effectiveness of acupressure, but there is some evidence that it may help.

In a 2017 study, researchers looked at the effects of acupressure on pain and anxiety. The subjects were athletes with sports injuries. On the day of the injury, the researchers gave the subjects one of the following treatments or did not give them acupressure at all:

  • Three-minute acupressure massage
  • Three-minute placebo treatment (sham acupressure applied to sham pressure points)

The study concluded that acupressure reduced pain compared to sham treatment or no acupressure. Anxiety has not changed.

A 2017 review analyzed the results of three trials of chemotherapy patients. The researchers found that performing acupressure with fingers or an acupressure wristband reduced nausea, vomiting, and retching.

While these are promising results, a 2017 review of 22 clinical trials of acupuncture or acupressure for labor induction found no clear benefit.


There hasn’t been much research on the effectiveness of acupressure. Some studies have found that it helps relieve pain and nausea.

A typical acupressure session

Acupuncture is usually done by an acupuncturist. Depending on the point they need to visit, you can sit or lie down on the massage table during the session.

You can also perform acupressure on yourself. It is best to learn the correct technique from an acupuncturist.

Generally, though, you use your thumb, fingers, or knuckles to apply pressure to specific points. You can also use a nib. The pressure should be gentle but firm.

Increase pressure for about 30 seconds. Then hold steady for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Next, gradually reduce the pressure for 30 seconds. Repeat three to five times.

Pressure point P6 is primarily used to treat nausea and vomiting. To find it, turn your palm up. Place your thumb in the center where your hand meets your wrist. Move your thumb two finger widths toward your elbow. This point is between the two large tendons and you should be able to feel it when you apply pressure.


Before attempting acupressure on yourself, consult a qualified acupuncturist. It’s important to learn the right technique first.

Shiatsu side effects and safety

Shiatsu should not be painful. Tell your therapist right away if you feel any pain.

Some people may experience pain or bruising at the acupoints after the treatment. You may also feel dizzy for a while.

The pressure applied to sensitive areas, such as the face, should be gentle.

If you are pregnant, talk to your caregiver before attempting acupressure. During pregnancy, acupressure is usually not performed in the following situations:

  • abdomen
  • certain points on the legs
  • lower back

Shiatsu should not be used in any of the following areas:

  • open wound
  • bruises
  • Varicose veins
  • swollen area

If you have any of these conditions, please consult your healthcare provider before attempting acupressure.

  • Osteoporosis
  • recent fracture or injury
  • cancer
  • easy bruising
  • bleeding disorders
  • heart disease
  • uncontrolled blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • use of prescription anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs, such as coumarin (warfarin)

Can Cupping Relieve Fibromyalgia?


Acupressure is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy that applies pressure to specific points on the body. This is done to release energy blockages that are said to cause health problems ranging from insomnia to menstrual cramps.

There isn’t much research on the effects of acupressure. Some research does suggest that it may help with pain and nausea.

Acupressure can be done by an acupuncturist, but you can also try doing it yourself (with proper guidance). If you are pregnant or are managing a medical condition, give your healthcare provider the green light to try it.