Chinese Medicine Basics
Acupressure: Benefits for Your Mind and Skin
Expand your knowledge of the art of self-massage with acupressure
Acupressure is defined as the application of pressure on acupuncture points using the hands, fingers, or thumbs. It is a non-invasive and painless technique based on the meridian theory of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that is effective at managing a variety of symptoms from pain to itching.
The Role of Balancing Qi
TCM theory holds that meridians, which are channels in a network of energy pathways throughout the body, regulate the flow of Qi, (vital energy) and that the unbalanced flow of Qi results in disease.
By applying pressure to specific points on the surface of the skin, acupressure stimulates the meridians. This results in the opening of the channels and the balancing of energy which restores health.
Benefits of Acupressure
Mechanical pressure, such as acupressure, has been known to decrease tissue adhesion, promote relaxation, increase regional blood circulation, increase parasympathetic nervous activity, increase intramuscular temperature, and decrease neuromuscular excitability.
Numerous studies on the benefits of self-administered acupressure in adults for symptom management have been reported. These studies are diverse in number and conditions addressed. Positive effects of acupressure using local, distal, and auricular acupuncture points have been shown for the management of musculoskeletal pain,[3-5] dysmenorrhea,[6,7] nausea,[8,9] and constipation, just to name a few.
Acupressure for Skin Health
Research on the effects of acupressure for certain dermatological conditions has also been appearing in recent publications. In the 2015 edition of the journal, Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, auricular acupressure was shown to reduce uremic pruritus (itching) associated with hemodialysis. This study included a total of 62 adult patients receiving acupressure on six auricular acupuncture points 3 times a week for 6 weeks. A pilot study of 12 adults published in the 2012 edition of the Acupuncture in Medicine journal by the British Medical Acupuncture Society, reported decreases in lichenification and pruritus associated with atopic dermatitis using self-administered acupressure at one acupuncture point (LI-11) 3 minutes 3 times a week for 4 weeks.
Acupressure has a number of advantages, including flexibility, low cost, and empowerment.  While many trained professionals can administer acupressure, acupressure is ideal for self-care and at-home care. Whether you would like to reduce a headache or are caring for an elderly parent who can’t sleep, acupressure is an effective tool for a variety of internal, musculoskeletal, or dermatological conditions with the appropriate training.
- Tiwari A, Lao L, Wang AX, et al. Self-administered acupressure for symptom management among Chinese family caregivers with caregiver stress: a randomized, wait-list controlled trial. BMC Complement Altern Med.2016;16(1):424; PMID: 27793197 Link to research.
- Zhang Y, Shen CL, Peck K, et al. Training Self-Administered Acupressure Exercise among Postmenopausal Women with Osteoarthritic Knee Pain: A Feasibility Study and Lessons Learned. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.2012;2012:570431; PMID: 23193423 Link to research.
- Sorour AS, Ayoub AS, Abd El Aziz EM. Effectiveness of acupressure versus isometric exercise on pain, stiffness, and physical function in knee osteoarthritis female patients. J Adv Res.2014;5(2):193-200; PMID: 25685487 Link to research.
- Mafetoni RR, Shimo AK. The effects of acupressure on labor pains during child birth: randomized clinical trial. Rev Lat Am Enfermagem.2016;24:e2738; PMID: 27508910 Link to research.
- Chen YW, Wang HH. The effectiveness of acupressure on relieving pain: a systematic review. Pain Manag Nurs.2014;15(2):539-550; PMID: 23415783 Link to research.
- Bazarganipour F, Lamyian M, Heshmat R, et al. A randomized clinical trial of the efficacy of applying a simple acupressure protocol to the Taichong point in relieving dysmenorrhea. Int J Gynaecol Obstet.2010;111(2):105-109; PMID: 20547392 Link to research.
- Chen HM, Chen CH. Effects of acupressure at the Sanyinjiao point on primary dysmenorrhoea. J Adv Nurs.2004;48(4):380-387; PMID: 15500532 Link to research.
- Avc HS, Ovayolu N, Ovayolu Ö. Effect of Acupressure on Nausea-Vomiting in Patients With Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia. Holist Nurs Pract.2016;30(5):257-262; PMID: 27501207 Link to research.
- Eghbali M, Yekaninejad MS, Varaei S, et al. The effect of auricular acupressure on nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy among breast cancer patients. Complement Ther Clin Pract.2016;24:189-194; PMID: 27502820 Link to research.
- Abbott R, Ayres I, Hui E, et al. Effect of perineal self-acupressure on constipation: a randomized controlled trial. J Gen Intern Med.2015;30(4):434-439; PMID: 25403522 Link to research.
- Yan CN, Yao WG, Bao YJ, et al. Effect of Auricular Acupressure on Uremic Pruritus in Patients Receiving Hemodialysis Treatment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.2015;2015:593196; PMID: 26495017 Link to research.
- Lee KC, Keyes A, Hensley JR, et al. Effectiveness of acupressure on pruritus and lichenification associated with atopic dermatitis: a pilot trial. Acupunct Med.2012;30(1):8-11; PMID: 22207450 Link to research.