Acupressure and acupuncture are two therapies based in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine. They both believe that symptoms and diseases in the body are caused by an imbalance or blockage of energy flow in the body. These techniques aim to restore the flow of energy to improve health and well being. They can be safe as long as the practitioner is properly trained and licensed. Before deciding to try acupressure and acupuncture, it is best to learn about these techniques and then check with a physician before starting any new treatment regimen.
Acupuncture and acupressure fall under the classification of traditional Chinese medicine or TCM which also employs the use of diet, herbs and mind body techniques, states the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. TCM views the body as an energetic entity that is balanced by two opposing forces called Yin and Yang. It also believes that good health depends on the flow of qi through pathways called meridians. Practitioners of this method aim to restore the flow of qi and the balance of Yin and Yang to improve spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, acupuncture which has been practiced for thousands of years in China and Asia involves attempting to restore the flow of qi by inserting tiny needles into the body at various points along the meridians. These needles are hair thin and if inserted correctly usually do not cause pain. The needles are left in the body for short periods of time as determined by the practitioner.
The Complementary Medical Association states that acupressure is basically acupuncture without the needles. It uses the same principals to restore health and well being to the body The acupressure practitioner stimulates the specific points by pressing on them with the hands, fingers, elbows or feet. The pressure is gentle and done at a comfortable level. Acupressure can be used on its own or in times where the client is uncomfortable with the use of needles.
There has been more research on the effectiveness of acupuncture versus acupressure. Whether acupuncture is beneficial due to the technique or the placebo effect needs to be further investigated claims the World Health Organization, or WHO. WHO also states that there have been trials of “real” acupuncture versus “fake” acupuncture in which needles were not inserted at meridian points. The "real" acupuncture appeared to have better results. As of 2010, there is little research on the benefits of acupressure, which can also be part of massage therapy.
Acupuncture and acupuncture training both involve studying traditional Chinese medicine. The American Board of Medical Acupuncture will not certify acupuncture practitioners without completion of a Western-based medical degree along with at least 200 hours of training in acupuncture. In contrast, acupressure may be studied as part of acupuncture training, along with massage therapy training or taken on its own. Most states have regulations and licensing requirements in regards to acupuncture and massage therapy. The laws regulating acupressure, however, are not as clear.