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What is Chinese Acupressure Massage?

Health & Wellness
Last Updated Jul 07, 2023

What is Chinese Acupressure Massage?

What is Chinese acupressure massage? How is it different from Chinese acupuncture? What are the differences between acupressure massage and an ordinary massage? If these questions have been running in your head for a while, this guide gives you the lowdown on each complementary treatment to help you understand the potential benefits of acupressure to your condition.

Chinese acupressure massage originated from the ancient medicinal art of acupuncture. In order to fully understand how it works, it is important to understand some of the basic principles of acupuncture.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the health of the body depends on the flow of vital life energy, called Qi (or Ki), throughout the body. This energy passes through a system of "meridians", otherwise known as energy channels, in the body. The Chinese acupuncturists have meticulously mapped out these meridians, which are associated with their corresponding vital organs. The acupuncturist inserts needles in the specific meridians to balance the flow of Qi. When Qi is balanced, it is believed that the symptoms of health disorders are relieved and you return to your healthy state of wellbeing.

What is Acupressure Massage?

The difference between acupuncture and acupressure is the use of needles. Acupuncture uses needles while acupressure uses gentle or deep pressure on the meridians. The acupressure massage therapist may perform one or more of the following ways, depending on your preference and the assessment of your needs:

  • Using fingers or thumbs in applying pressure to targeted points
  • The practitioner may also use his elbows, knees or even feet for certain treatments
  • Sometimes, a special blunt instrument is used for certain procedures

The practitioner applies pressure to a targeted point being treated using a circular motion, or they may knead the muscles or use rapid percussion. The effectiveness of the treatment does not depend on the amount of pressure applied to the areas. Some clients prefer less pressure while others want more. The practitioner adjusts the pressure level according to the personal comfort level of the client. Aside from targeting the meridians, the practitioner may also use other traditional remedial massage techniques in relieving muscle stiffness and eliminating built-up toxins from the body.

The Link Between Acupressure and TCM

Chinese acupressure massage is deeply rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles, which provide a comprehensive understanding of health and healing. Here are some key principles of TCM that relate to acupressure:

  1. Qi (Life Force Energy): TCM views the body as an interconnected system of energy. Qi, often described as life force energy, flows through the body along specific pathways called meridians. Chinese acupressure massage aims to balance the flow of Qi by stimulating acupressure points and meridians, promoting health and vitality.

  2. Yin and Yang Balance: TCM emphasises the concept of Yin and Yang, representing complementary forces in nature and the human body. Yin represents qualities such as coolness, calmness and rest, while Yang represents warmth, activity and stimulation. Chinese acupressure massage aims to restore the balance between Yin and Yang within the body to achieve optimal health.

  3. Holistic Approach: TCM considers the body, mind and spirit as interconnected aspects of a person's wellbeing. Chinese acupressure massage takes a holistic approach by addressing not only physical symptoms but also emotional and mental imbalances. By considering the individual as a whole, Chinese acupressure massage aims to restore harmony and promote overall wellness.

  4. Prevention and Maintenance: TCM emphasises the importance of prevention and maintenance of health. Chinese acupressure massage can be used as a preventive measure to promote balance and wellbeing. Regular sessions can help identify and address imbalances before they manifest as symptoms or diseases, supporting long-term health.

Benefits of Chinese Acupressure Massage

Chinese acupressure massage, also known as acupressure, offers a wide range of benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing. This ancient healing practice involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow and promote healing. Here are some key benefits of this modality:

  1. Pain Relief: One of the primary advantages of Chinese Cupressure Massage is its ability to alleviate pain. By targeting specific acupressure points, this massage technique can help relieve headaches, back pain, muscle tension and other types of discomfort.

  2. Stress Reduction: Chinese acupressure massage is renowned for its stress-relieving effects. The application of pressure on specific points helps relax the body and mind, reducing stress and anxiety levels. This can lead to improved mental clarity, enhanced mood and better overall emotional wellbeing.

  3. Improved Circulation: Through the manipulation of acupressure points and meridians, acupressure promotes better circulation. By stimulating blood flow, it can help oxygenate the tissues, remove toxins and improve the functioning of various body systems.

  4. Enhanced Relaxation and Sleep: Chinese Acupressure massage induces a deep state of relaxation, allowing the body to unwind and rejuvenate. It can also help regulate sleep patterns, promoting better quality sleep and reducing insomnia.

What Does Acupressure Massage Treat?

Acupressure massage is not designed to treat specific health conditions. This form of complementary medicine is designed to help improve the body's ability to heal itself. Some common complaints many people have found relief from after receiving acupressure treatment include:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue in patients with cancer
  • Muscle soreness
  • High blood pressure
  • Chemotherapy-induced nausea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Dental pain
  • IVF anxiety
  • Labour pain
  • Excess body weight
  • Chronic pain and anxiety resulting from breast cancer treatment

Acupressure can complement standard medical treatment or be used in conjunction with other complementary therapies, to speed up the healing process and improve your sense of well-being. The length and type of treatment depends on your personal preference. So, you may opt for a short, relaxing head and neck treatment, which usually lasts about 20 minutes, or a full body acupressure massage that can last for about an hour. Afterwards, you will probably be advised by the practitioner to drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins from the body. Most people come away feeling totally refreshed and relaxed and often experience relief from underlying disorders.

Techniques Used in Chinese Cupressure Massage

Chinese Acupressure massage employs a variety of techniques to stimulate specific points on the body, promoting healing and balance. Here are some commonly used techniques in acpressure:

Finger Pressure

Finger pressure is a fundamental technique in Chinese acupressure massage. It involves applying firm and steady pressure with the fingertips or knuckles to specific acupressure points. This technique helps relieve tension, stimulate energy flow and promote healing.

Palm Pressure

Palm pressure is another technique frequently used in Chinese acupressure massage. It involves using the palms of the hands to apply gentle or firm pressure to larger areas of the body, such as the back or legs. This technique helps relax muscles, improve circulation and restore balance.

Thumb Techniques

Thumb techniques involve using the thumb to apply pressure to acupressure points. These techniques can include pressing, rotating or kneading motions to stimulate the points effectively. Thumb techniques are particularly useful for targeting specific areas with precision.

Acupressure Points and Meridian Manipulation

Chinese acupressure massage focuses on specific acupressure points and meridians, which are energy pathways in the body. Practitioners apply pressure to these points and manipulate the meridians to restore the flow of Qi (life force energy). By targeting these points and meridians, acupressure aims to address imbalances and promote overall wellbeing.

It's important to note that Chinese acupressure massage should be performed by trained and qualified practitioners to ensure safety and effectiveness. The combination of these techniques, along with a deep understanding of the body's energy systems, makes Chinese acupressure massage a powerful and holistic healing modality.

Insights from Clinical Trials and Studies

  1. Pain Management: Several clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy of acupressure in relieving pain. A study published in Pain Management Nursing examined the effects of acupressure on menstrual pain and found that it significantly reduced pain intensity and duration. Another trial published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management reported that acupressure was effective in reducing cancer-related pain and improving overall quality of life. These findings suggest that acupressure can be a valuable complementary approach for pain management.

  2. Stress Reduction and Anxiety Relief: Acupressure has shown promising results in reducing stress and anxiety levels. A study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing investigated the effects of acupressure on stress among nurses and found a significant decrease in perceived stress levels after acupressure treatment. Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing explored the impact of acupressure on anxiety symptoms in older adults and reported a significant reduction in anxiety scores. These findings highlight the potential of acupressure as a non-invasive method for stress reduction and anxiety relief.

  3. Sleep Improvement: Research suggests that acupressure may have positive effects on sleep quality and insomnia. A systematic review published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing analysed various studies and found that acupressure significantly improved sleep quality in participants with insomnia. Another randomised controlled trial published in the Journal of Sleep Research investigated the effects of acupressure on sleep quality among breast cancer survivors and reported significant improvements in subjective sleep quality and sleep duration. These findings indicate that acupressure holds promise as a complementary intervention for sleep-related issues.

  4. Nausea and Vomiting Management: Acupressure has been investigated for its potential in managing nausea and vomiting, particularly in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing examined multiple studies and concluded that acupressure wristbands effectively reduced chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Another randomised controlled trial published in Cancer Nursing found that acupressure significantly decreased the severity and frequency of nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients. These results suggest that acupressure may serve as a non-pharmacological adjunctive therapy for managing chemotherapy-related symptoms.

Is Acupressure Massage Therapy Better Than Regular Massage?

Chinese acupressure massage and regular massage therapy are both holistic forms of bodywork that are beneficial to the mind, body and emotions. There's only a hair's breadth of difference between them as they both address a wide range of pain conditions, enhance circulation, improve sleep quality and offer a whole lot of other health benefits. The differences between them lie in their principles and applications. 

Most massage techniques are carried out with gentle pressure in the beginning, and then the therapist gradually shifts to a firm pressure. Additionally, massage therapy treats focused areas, which means the therapist goes directly to the source of body pain. The application of acupressure, on the other hand, is grounded in acupoint stimulation using finger pressure to balance the flow of energy in the meridians, which is crucial in the reduction in pain.

If the root cause of your health condition goes beyond muscle tension, plus you're keen on replenishing your body's vital energy, knowing that it's the key to improving your heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels, then you will benefit loads from the effects of acupressure.

Safety and Precautions

While Chinese acupressure massage is generally safe and beneficial, it's essential to observe certain precautions to ensure a safe and effective experience. Here are some important safety considerations:

Qualified Practitioners

Seek a qualified and experienced practitioner who has received proper training in Chinese acupressure massage. They should have a comprehensive understanding of acupressure points, meridians and contraindications for various conditions.


Chinese acupressure massage may not be suitable for everyone. It's important to inform the practitioner about any pre-existing medical conditions, injuries or specific concerns you have. Certain conditions, such as fractures, open wounds, infectious diseases or pregnancy, may require modifications or avoidance of specific techniques.


Maintain open communication with the practitioner throughout the session. Inform them if you experience any discomfort, pain or unusual sensations. This allows the practitioner to adjust the pressure or technique as needed.

Hygiene and Cleanliness

Ensure that the practitioner maintains proper hygiene and cleanliness standards. Clean linens, sanitised equipment, and a clean environment are essential for a safe and hygienic experience.

Personal Comfort

Communicate your preferences regarding pressure, intensity and any sensitive areas. The practitioner should respect your comfort level and adjust the session accordingly.

Can an Acupressure Device Produce the Same Results as a Treatment Session? 

The astounding effects of acupressure are well-documented, hence the reason why many people use it in conjunction with conventional Western medicine. However, the human body works round the clock, so a single acupressure therapy session can only go so far. 

If you couldn't afford to get regular acupressure sessions, you'll be happy to know that wearing or using acupressure devices are a suitable option. An acupressure mat or other similar items have been clinically proven to relieve pain and discomfort that stem from different medical conditions or the side effects of conventional treatments.

The benefits of wearing acupressure bands, for instance, are similar to what you can get from receiving ear acupressure for nausea. In fact, a clinical study titled Acupressure Bands are Effective in Reducing Radiation Therapy-Related Nausea, which was published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, states that such wearable devices can effectively control nausea among cancer patients who are receiving radiation therapy. 

There is also empirical evidence for the efficacy of acupressure slippers in relieving foot pain and promoting better quality of sleep. Before purchasing an acupressure device, though, consult a qualified acupuncturist to find out which acupoints in your meridians require stimulation. 

Contact a qualified practitioner of Chinese acupressure massage today and reap the benefits of this holistic healing modality. To find one in your local area, check out the comprehensive listing of natural health professionals on the Natural Therapy Pages.


Originally published on Jun 10, 2011

FAQs About Chinese Acupressure Massage

How many times can acupressure be done in a day?

Ideally, acupressure should be practised every day or at least three times a week to maintain the normal flow of your vital life force. Each acupressure session should last for a few minutes to an hour.

Does Acupressure Really Work for Weight Loss?

Yes, acupressure can help with weight loss. This branch of TCM stimulates the acupoints situated in the meridians to remove any blockages that affect the body's digestive system. In doing so, it improves the metabolic rate and sheds off unwanted pounds.

How long does it take for acupressure to work?

Most people see immediate results after two to three sessions of acupressure. A significant reduction in pain, better sleep quality, and a positive mindset are some of its numerous benefits. Long-standing ailments, however, will require a longer treatment duration.

What is the legality of practising acupressure in Australia?

Acupressure is a legal practice in Australia. However, it is important to ensure that practitioners are qualified and registered with a recognised professional association, such as the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) or the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA).

How can I find a qualified acupressure practitioner in Australia?

To find a qualified acupressure practitioner in Australia, you can refer to the websites of professional associations like ATMS and ANTA. They provide directories of registered practitioners, allowing you to search for practitioners in your area.

Can acupressure be covered by health insurance in Australia?

Yes, some private health insurance policies in Australia offer coverage for acupressure treatments. It is advisable to check with your insurance provider to determine if your policy includes coverage for complementary therapies like acupressure.

Are there any specific regulations or standards for acupressure practice in Australia?

While there are no specific regulations or standards solely for acupressure, practitioners generally follow the guidelines and ethical standards set by their professional associations. These associations often require practitioners to meet certain educational requirements, adhere to a code of conduct and maintain ongoing professional development.

Are there any recognised training programs for acupressure in Australia?

Yes, there are various recognised training programs for acupressure in Australia. These programs are typically offered by reputable institutions and can range from short courses to more comprehensive certification programs. It is advisable to choose a program that is accredited by a recognised industry body or association.

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