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The word "Acupressure" means to press with a needle. The science of acupressure developed, as it was seen that effects similar to that of acupuncture could be obtained by pressing acupuncture points. The term acupressure implies the application of pressure on an acupuncture point with a needle without actually piercing the skin.


When we are hurt, we instinctively hold the affected part and massage or press it to ease the pain. This is because pain in that part of the body can be temporarily eased by pressure over that pain. A headache can often be relieved by pressure on the temples.

Over thousands of years, this principle was redefined into a fine art as it was seen that pressure at various parts of the body could alleviate problems elsewhere in the body. Gradually it was found that pressure with a sharp object appeared to be more effective than pressure applied with the fingers. This was the origin of the art of acupressure.

A form of acupressure and martial art called Kalaripayatt is practised extensively in south India especially in Kerala. This form of treatment spread from India to Indonesia and Japan around two thousand years ago and gave rise to Shiatsu and the various Japanese martial arts. The Japanese form of acupressure is called "Shiatsu" and is a highly developed form of treatment. The knowledge of pressure points is also used in the Japanese martial arts like karate and Judo.


Acupressure can be performed in many ways. The classical way of doing it is to use a blunt needle to apply pressure over an acupuncture point. However acupressure can also be carried out by pressing with your nail or any other blunt object. The pressure can be applied and released a number of times. The duration of pressure is dependent on how painful the point is. If it is very painful, the point is pressed every few minutes for a few seconds. This process is repeated till the patient finds that the point is no longer as painful and he can withstand greater pressure for a longer time.

If there is no pain at the acupuncture point, continuous pressure is applied for thirty to ninety seconds till the required result is obtained. However acupuncture points requering treatment are usually tender.


Acupressure is a useful means of treatment as it can be carried out without any special equipment. In an emergency the fingers or a ball point pen can be used to apply acupressure, which can dramatically ease the symptoms. A friend of mine fractured his ankle in a motor cycle accident and was in intense pain. I applied acupressure on his hand and ear and within a minute his pain had dramatically eased. We were able to take him to hospital and set his ankle without the need for general anaesthesia as advised by the orthopaedic surgeon. Acupressure was applied on his hand and ear and he was easily able to withstand the normally intense pain of the procedure.

I was once travelling in the hills by jeep and the lady next to me was feeling very carsick. I pressed her forearm above the wrist and within a few minutes she was no longer feeling nauseated. The best results from acupressure are obtained, when the therapist has an accurate knowledge of the acupuncture points.


There are some disadvantages to acupressure. Only one acupuncture point can be treated at a time whereas in a patient we may need to treat several acupuncture points, especially so in patients with long standing problems.

The treatment is time consuming, as every point may need to be stimulated for five to ten minutes. The acupuncturist is thus obliged to stay with the patient throughout the treatment. In acupuncture the acupuncturist, is able to leave the patient alone for a few minutes whilst the needles take effect.

The acupuncturist needs to have very strong hands or he may find that he himself needs treatment for painful fingers. Acupressure is most effective when an acupuncture point lies over a bone and can be massaged against it. It is not so effective over soft areas like the abdomen.


Reflexology is a form of acupressure, which is applied on the hands and feet. The entire human body with all its organs is represented in the hands and feet so pain in a specific area may indicate a disorder of the organ which is represented in that area. The tender points at massaged to tone up the organ with very good results.


Acupressure is a useful means of therapy to be taught to lay people to enable them to help themselves with their problem. Asthmatic patients are often taught to insert their finger behind the breastbone at the base of the throat to relieve an acute attack of asthma. Pain due to any reason can often be eased by pressing between the thumb and the forefinger. Your acupuncturist can often advise you which acupressure points you need to treat, for your problems.

In general, acupressure is not as effective a form of treatment as acupuncture because the force, which is applied, is dissipated over a wider area. In acupuncture the needle enters a point which is less than two millimetres in diameter to create it's effect. Acupressure is more effective when it is carried out using a blunt needle which is at times considerably more painful than acupuncture carried out for the same ailment. With the advent of sophisticated and painless means of therapy like lasers and ultrasound the role of acupressure in therapy has diminished.