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If you've ever pinched the skin between your fingers for relief or worn a motion sickness wristband, then you've used acupressure, whether or not you realized it. Annotated charts of human anatomy can make acupressure seem pretty complex, and it is. But it's also very accessible in that almost anyone can start a self-practice. And since it encompasses the entire body, traditional Chinese medicine connects it to just about any health benefit you can think of. Intrigued? Here's what you should know.
What is acupressure therapy?
Acupressure is a thousands-year-old form of massage therapy that involves applying pressure to certain points on the body to address ailments. According to traditional Chinese medicine, people have meridians or channels throughout the body. Qi, which is understood as a life-sustaining energy force, runs along those meridians. Qi can become stuck at some points along the meridians, and the goal of acupressure is to keep the energy flowing using pressure at specific points. Western medicine doesn't include the existence of the meridians, so acupressure isn't part of mainstream medical treatment here. (Related: Tai Chi Is Having a Moment-Here's Why It's Actually Worth Your Time)
What is acupressure used for?
There are hundreds of acupressure points on the body, corresponding to other parts of the body. (For example, there's a point on your hand for your kidney.) So, naturally, the practice has many associated benefits. As with any form of massage, a huge perk of acupressure is relaxation, one that you can get behind even if you doubt the existence of meridians. Acupressure is often used for pain relief, and studies have suggested it may help fight back pain, menstrual cramps, and headaches. The practice is used for many other purposes that have been studied less, including immune system and digestion support.