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About Acupressure

What traditional Chinese medicine says about Accupressure for Nausea

Acupressure is one of several techniques used in traditional Chinese medicine. Developed over 4000 years of critical observation and testing, this system is very different in philosophy and practice to Western science.

Western doctors start with a symptom and look for a specific cause or disease.

A Chinese medical practitioner will treat the symptom as only one factor in the individual’s entire physiological and psychological profile, which must be studied to find ‘the pattern of disharmony’.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, illness results from an imbalance in the flow of Chi (‘life energy’) through the body. The original meaning of Chi (pronounced ‘chee’ and sometimes spelt ‘Qi’) was simply air, breath or energy, but it eventually came to mean the vital nourishing and protective energy that sustains everything in the world. We receive Chi at conception from our parents, and after birth continue to derive it from food and air.

Chi is animated by a constant movement of energy between yin and yang, two opposing but complementary forces. When one predominates, the flow of energy is disturbed and disease and emotional instability can result.

Chi circulates through the body along a network of invisible channels beneath the skin called meridians. There are 12 basic meridians, paired on the right and left sides of the body and named after the internal organs to which they are attached, such as the lungs, large bowel and (in the case of P6) the pericardium.

Dotted along the meridians are 2000 or so known acupoints, where Chi is said to be concentrated and at which it enters and leaves the body. Stimulation of these points - whether by needles, heat, mild electrical currents or pressure - is said to free the flow of Chi, releasing blockages and restoring depletions, thus returning the body to harmony.

How the Chinese use acupressure

Tuina, as acupressure is known in China, is the technique of applying pressure with the hands to the acupoints and meridians. Some points are known to be particularly powerful and the Chinese will press or scrape them with a fingernail or the edge of a spoon as a self-help measure.

Pericardium 6 (P6) is one of these. P6’s functions include the movement of energy in the chest, harmonisation of the digestion and stomach, the regulation of blood flow and calming of the mind.

The Chinese use it to treat chest pain, irregular and painful periods, pre-menstrual depression, insomnia and because of its influence on the stomach - to relieve nausea and vomiting, acid regurgitation, hiccuping and belching.

What Western Science says

When it comes to Chi and meridians, Western scientists prefer to seek other, more medically acceptable, explanations for the phenomenon represented by acupressure and acupuncture. Most likely, in their view, is the involvement of pain-relieving chemicals known as endorphins and the ‘gate control theory’ of pain relief.

In simple terms, according to this theory, nerves carrying pressure messages reach the brain faster than pain messages. As the brain can receive only so many messages at once, the ‘gate’ is closed by the time pain signals arrive.

Pressure appears to stimulate nerve fibres running up the spinal cord and ultimately result in production of endorphins, morphine - like compounds which influence the hormonal and immune systems and inhibit the brain’s perception of pain, especially when associated with anxiety and stress.

But why, for instance, should the stimulation of specific points and not others trigger certain responses in the brain? And by what means do these responses prompt a reaction in another, seemingly unrelated part of the body?

If neurochemicals are responsible, by what channels do they operate? Neither the nervous system nor the vascular or lymphatic systems can fully account for this flow of information.