Acupressure is an ancient method of improving a person's health by applying pressure to specific sites on the body. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but does not break the skin. Instead, the acupressure practitioner relies on pressure invoked by fingertip or knuckle to accomplish his purpose.
Also called Shiatzu, acupressure originated in ancient China approximately 500 years B.C. and spread throughout the Orient. It is the oldest form of physical therapy for which instructions are written. A basic level of acupressure can be practiced by anyone for the relief of pain or tension, and the practice is in active use by those who practice alternative forms of medicine.
Like acupuncture, acupressure recognizes certain pressure points located along meridians that extend the length of the body. Certain meridians and their connectors are associated with given organs or muscles, and pressure points on the meridian will affect the pain level in the organ. The pressure points are often located far from the organ they affect. This is a reflection of the belief that energy flows through the body along the meridians and that pain develops in an area when the energy flow through the corresponding meridian is stopped or reduced. Acupressure opens the energy and eases pain or discomfort.
Anyone who would practice acupressure must first learn the location of the meridians and their connectors. More than a thousand pressure points have been mapped along the meridians, but the amateur practitioner need not know them all. Generally the individual with a recurrent or chronic pain can learn the point that best eases his pain and learn how much pressure to apply to accomplish his purpose.
Reports from various Asian and American institutions claim that acupressure can be an effective way to ease pain and relax stressed muscles without the aid of medications. It has even been employed to provide anesthesia for certain types of surgery.
See also Alternative medicine.