Traditional Chinese medicine is an ancient therapeutic practice which relies on the body’s vital energy or chi. It promotes the body’s health and combats infections and diseases through a balanced and free flowing energy. Aside from herbal medicines, there are two accepted and applied therapies: acupuncture and acupressure. The latter two will be discussed in detail in this article.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine and alternative medicine that uses thin sterilized needles being inserted into acupuncture points in the body. These acupuncture points are located at different spots in the meridians. Some variations of the treatment include application of heat, pressure and laser light to the same points. Regardless of the variation, it is mainly used to relieve pain.
Acupressure is another form of traditional Chinese medicine and alternative medicine. But unlike acupuncture, it does not use any needles. Rather it relies on pressure being exerted along the meridians. It is said to relieve pain, and manage nausea and vomiting.
|Uses thin needles||Applies pressure with various parts of the body or uses a specialized blunt instrument|
|Puncture or insertion||Pressure|
|At acupuncture points at different spots in the meridians||Along the meridians|
|Variation includes application of heat, pressure and laser light to the same point in conjunction with the needle||Variations include using massaging oil|
|Contraindicated for patients with fear of needles||Can be used for patients with fear of needles|
|Relieves pain||Relieves pain, and manages nausea and vomiting|
Let us compare the two in terms of what instruments are used, how they are used and where, variations, indications and contraindications.
- In acupuncture the practitioner uses sterilized, thin, hair-like needles. As for acupressure, the practitioner applies pressure from various parts of his body, particularly the hands, elbows, and/or feet; they can also use a specialized blunt metal or wood instrument.
- In acupuncture the needle is inserted at specific points in the body. And for acupressure, the appropriate amount of pressure is applied. When pressure is applied it releases muscular tension and promotes better blood circulation.
- In traditional Chinese medicine there is a so-called meridian system in which life energy or chi flows. Superficial points are connected to individual organs; thus when the superficial point is manipulated it exerts an effect on the said organ. For example, the web between the thumb and forefinger is connected to the large intestine, the flesh in between the second and big toe is connected to the liver, and superior to the inner ankle bone is connected to the spleen. This meridian system is used as a guide in both therapies. In acupuncture the needle is inserted at specific points, whereas in acupressure, pressure is exerted along the meridian.
- Acupuncture can be done in a variety of ways including application of heat, pressure and laser light to the same point in conjunction with the needle. To enhance acupressure, one could use massaging oil.
- Since acupuncture uses needles, this is contraindicated for patients with fear of needles. For patients with needle phobia, acupressure can be used since it does not use any needles.
- Acupuncture is mainly used to relieve body pain including carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, neck and back pain, menstrual cramps, myofascial pains, and postoperative dental pain. Acupressure can also reduce pain, but in addition, it can also manage nausea and vomiting, reducing stress and anxiety, as well as depression.
The following video will help you better understand the difference between acupuncture and acupressure: