Acupressure is an effective and non-invasive option for treating back pain. While it is similar in principle to acupuncture, acupressure does not involve needles. Instead, acupressure uses pressure points to release tension in the body. Acupressure originated in Asian bodywork practices—for example, traditional Chinese medicine, shiatsu and Thai massage. In these ancient health practices, it is believed that the reason we get sick and experience pain in the body is because energy gets “stuck” along certain energy lines. By applying deep and consistent pressure to common energetic congestion points, the body is able to break through these blockages. On a scientific level, acupressure improves circulation and helps with muscle relaxation.
Western Bodywork Focuses on the Problem
If you are new to holistic bodywork therapies you may notice some differences between them and more Western forms of bodywork. Bodywork is an overarching term that covers a wide range of practices that involve physically manipulating the body. Often when you get a Swedish massage treatment, the focus is on the problem area. So if your low back is bothering you, the massage therapist will focus on massaging out the low back. Sometimes this is effective and you may find long term relief from your back pain. However, if the rest of your body has learned to compensate for the tension in your back, you may benefit from a more holistic approach to bodywork.
Eastern Bodywork Focuses on the Whole Body
Many Eastern bodywork practices view the body as being a whole entity where nothing exists in isolation. So any tension or energetic blocks in the body will absolutely have an effect on the rest of the body. As such, it is important to treat the whole body during a session. If you go see a holistic bodywork practitioner you may find that, in addition to focusing on your back, they will work on other parts for your body as well.
What to Expect
Unlike Swedish massage, many holistic bodywork therapies are done fully clothed. This allows the practitioner to make the treatment more dynamic and incorporate stretching. As acupressure focuses on specific points, there is no need to take your clothes off to receive an acupressure treatment. Sometimes you will be asked to change into pajama-like garments provided by your practitioner. Treatments either take place on a raised, cushioned table or on cushioned floor mats.
Acupressure obviously uses pressure to release tension and energy blocks in the body. Not surprisingly, an acupressure treatment can be intense. Be sure to let your holistic therapy practitioner know how much pressure you like when receiving bodywork. If you are not sure what level of pressure works for you, communicate with your therapist throughout the session. Your sensitivity to pressure can change on a daily basis. While an acupressure may feel intense at times, try to breathe through the discomfort. If you are having trouble staying relaxed while receiving acupressure, maybe ask the practitioner to be more gentle.
Options for Acupressure Treatments
The most popular forms of acupressure treatments are traditional Chinese medicine, shiatsu and Thai massage. Each of these practices is distinctly different so you may want to try all three in order to decide what will be the best option for your back pain.
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Back Pain
Also called TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complex practice that involves bodywork, acupuncture, Qigong and herbal supplements/remedies. As TCM is a holistic practice, the idea is to use the appropriate facets of the practice to help heal the body. A TCM acupressure treatment is done fully clothed on a cushioned table, similar to a Swedish massage table. The practitioner evaluates the health of your body based on different factors. This includes your pulse, skin condition and any other signs and symptoms that you share. The practitioner will then use pressure to stimulate the appropriate points to help realign your chi or qi. They will focus on those points that have a direct effect on your back.
Shiatsu for Back Pain
Shiatsu is a Japanese form of bodywork that translates to mean “finger pressure.” Like TCM, shiatsu looks at the signs and symptoms that could be creating your back pain. Shiatsu uses a combination of pressure points and directional massage to release tension in the body. Shiatsu is a pressure-intense practice and involves quick, deep pressure application that lasts for about five seconds. Similar to TCM, shiatsu stimulates blocked energy points; your practitioner will focus on those that are affecting your back pain. Shiatsu is performed fully-clothed on a cushioned table.
Thai Massage for Back Pain
Thai massage—sometimes called Thai yoga massage—uses a combination of stretching, acupressure and massage to realign the body’s energy. It is performed fully-clothed on cushioned floor mats. The benefit of being done on the floor is that the practitioner can apply deep pressure using their hands, elbows, knees and feet. The meridian or ‘sen’ lines are worked to help the body heal itself. Thai massage is the most physical of these three practices. So in addition to the energetic benefits of a Thai massage session, you will also feel the relief that comes from deep stretching and massage. The best part is, you remain passive for the duration of the treatment; the practitioner does all the work.
None of these practices are meant to be used as a quick fix. You will feel the most benefits if you commit to regular treatments. If you back pain was a long time in the making, it will take a while for it to resolve itself. Fortunately, there are so many holistic options to choose from when treating back pain. The long-term benefits of these acupressure treatments will no doubt have a positive effect your back as well as your health and wellbeing as a whole. For another effective option for treating back pain, consider trying these yoga poses for back pain.
“Acupressure Points and Massage Treatment.” WebMD. April 27, 2015. Accessed September 26, 2016. http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/acupressure-points-and-massage-treatment.