Acupressure is like acupuncture without the needles. Your body contains hundreds of acupressure points, and stimulating these points with pressure can allegedly do everything from relieve insomnia, sinus headaches, arthritis pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and water retention and bloating.
Derived from traditional Chinese medicine, acupressure has been practiced for thousands of years. In traditional Chinese medicine, balance plays an essential role. According to WebMD, these acupressure points are located in 12 major “meridians” — or channels — in your body that connect specific organs or groups of organs.
Those who practice traditional Chinese medicine, specifically acupressure, believe that energy — called qi (ch’i) — flows through these invisible channels. Problems arise when a meridian becomes blocked or finds itself out of balance. Acupressure, therefore, unblocks the meridian, restoring balance and health.
Pinch the bridge of your nose while suffering from a sinus headache, and chances are you’ll feel some measure of relief. Deep tissue massage or applying pressure to certain points along the body stimulates good blood circulation and gets those tense muscles to relax. But improving circulation, reducing muscle tension and stimulating endorphins are all natural pain relievers, points out WebMD, and may not have anything to do with qi and meridians.
What this means is that stimulating acupressure points results in certain undeniable health benefits to many. While pressing the point between your thumb and forefinger may help you not upchuck, it may not necessarily unblock your plumbing if you are suffering from constipation — much like drinking water may help ease a hangover, but won’t necessarily stop you from puking into the sink you just cleaned.
The bottom line is that well-designed scientific studies are needed to rule out the idea that correlation means causation.
The National Institutes of Health also point out that while research does show that acupressure helps alleviate nausea and vomiting following surgery and chemotherapy, as well as relieve pain, researchers don't fully understand how acupuncture works.
Until researchers nail down precisely how acupressure works, people willing to give it the old college try should first consult with their doctors to make sure it’s safe to use acupressure therapy in combination with medically prescribed treatments — and never in lieu of them.