Acupressure is the applying of pressure to specific points on the body, often used to help relieve tension and pain. It has been used for thousands of years to provide comfort and to help our bodies heal.

Rubbing our temples during a headache or stressful moment is an example of how we naturally choose to place our hands on specific areas of our body for relief. It’s also a specific type of massage therapy based on the meridian system, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine and other ancient healing systems.

Acupressure helps the body heal the local tissue that you’re pressing or massaging. From an Eastern medicine perspective, this may mean balancing and influencing the “qi,” “chi,” or the body’s energy that flows in that meridian. From a Western medicine perspective, acupressure improves circulation, relaxes tight muscles and releases pain-relieving endorphins.

Because all the acupuncture meridians either begin or end on the scalp, many people feel great after a scalp massage. The same can be said about the ear, which has been mapped for treatment of the entire body. Many have also heard about reflexology, which uses a map of the body on the feet or hands.

Acupressure is used in health care settings by a variety of trained professionals: acupuncturists, massage therapists, and nurses for example.

Specific acupressure points can be taught to patients as a self-care method to be used at home. The patient can then access the relief these points provide at home whenever it is needed: simply press or massage the point(s) for about 30 seconds. Use an amount of pressure that feels comfortable without being painful. When several points are grouped together to increase effectiveness of the treatment, it is called an “acupressure prescription.”

Acupressure prescriptions can be individualized to help a person with a specific complaint, like lower back pain or headaches. Acupressure can be used to increase energy, calm a stressful moment, or relax the body for sleep. Acupressure can be used many times per day.

Join Acupuncturist Juli Olson from the Central Iowa VAMC for a chance to experience acupressure for wellness.

Acupressure can be one way to treat pain and help improve your health from the comfort of home. For other ways to live healthier check out the Circle of Health: https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/circle-of-health/index.asp.

The Pain Coach mobile application (app) offers helpful tools to track and manage pain: https://mobile.va.gov/app/pain-coach-app-veterans.

For additional self-management tools for pain, visit: https://www.va.gov/PAINMANAGEMENT/Veteran_Public/Self_Management.asp.


Juli Olson, DACM, DC is the National Lead, Acupuncture for the VHA’s Integrative Health Coordinating Center and a staff chiropractor/acupuncturist at the Iowa City VAMC.

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Published on May. 13, 2020

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