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Acupressure, Shiatsu, Tuina

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Learn about Acupressure for treatment of depression, anxiety, addiction and other psychiatric disorders.

Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Background

Acupressure, the practice of applying finger pressure to specific acupoints throughout the body, was used in China as early as 2000 B.C., pre-dating the practice of acupuncture. Acupressure is widely practiced both professionally and informally throughout Asia for relaxation, for the promotion of wellness and for the treatment of disease. These techniques are growing in popularity in North America and Europe. Numerous trials in humans suggest the effectiveness of wrist-point (known as the P6 acupoint) acupressure for treating nausea; this is the most studied use of acupressure.

Shiatsu is a Japanese form of acupressure. Its literal translation is finger (shi) pressure (atsu). Shiatsu emphasizes finger pressure not only at acupoints but also along the body's meridians. (In traditional Chinese medicine, the meridians are channels in the body believed to conduct chi, or elemental forces.) Shiatsu can also incorporate palm pressure, stretching, massage and other manual techniques. A nationwide survey in England found that shiatsu practitioners most commonly treat musculoskeletal and psychological conditions, including neck, shoulder and lower back problems; arthritis; depression; and anxiety.

Tuina (Chinese for "pushing and pulling") is similar to shiatsu, but it places more emphasis on soft-tissue manipulation and structural realignment. Tuina is reported as being the most common form of Asian bodywork practiced in Chinese-American communities.

Theory

In some traditional Asian medical philosophies, health is considered to be a state of balance in the body, maintained by the flow of life energy along specific meridians. The philosophy that disease is caused by imbalance has led to treatments directed at establishing balance through points along these meridians. Disease is believed to occur when there is blockage in the flow of energy or when energy flow is deficient or in excess.

Acupressure aims to restore normal flow of life energy by means of finger pressure, palm pressure, stretching, massage and other techniques. There are said to be 12 primary channels and eight additional pathways that circulate life energy through the body, maintaining the balance of yin and yang.

It is suggested that acupressure may reduce muscle pain and tension, improve blood circulation and release endorphins (a type of hormone). As an acupressure point is pressed, muscle tension is thought to yield to the pressure, enabling muscle fibers to elongate and relax, allowing blood to flow more freely and toxins to be released and eliminated.

Acupressure is related in some ways to acupuncture. Theoretically, stimulation of acupoints with needles, moxa (burning with a stick including dried mugwort leaves) or finger pressure may evoke similar effects on the body. Likewise, acupressure techniques that involve massage and manipulation of soft tissues may work similarly to therapeutic massage.