what are the most common pressure points
Common pressure points used by acupuncturists and acupressure practitioners include large intestine 4, liver 3, and spleen 6

Pressure points are a part of reflexology, which is a form of massage therapy that involves applying pressure to specific points in the hands or feet, which practitioners believe correspond to the body’s organs. When optimal pressure is applied to these points, it may help reduce pain, relieve stress, and promote healing. 

Though reflexology, or acupressure, is not a scientifically validated method, many people report improved symptoms with the practice. It is, therefore, a low-risk, complementary approach used in the treatment of many psychosomatic disorders.

The most common pressure points used by acupuncturists and acupressure practitioners include:

  • Large intestine 4 (LI 4): Located in between the thumb and forefinger, and often used to relieve headaches.
  • Liver 3 (LR-3): Located at the top of the foot in the space between the big toe and one next to it.
  • Spleen 6 (SP-6): Located about three fingers’ width above the inner ankle bone.

How does acupressure work?

There are several theories about how reflexology works on health:

  • Some are based on the energy theory, which is the concept that body parts communicate with each other through electromagnetic energy channels. These electromagnetic energy channels can be blocked by stress and diseases.
  • Other theories of reflexology are based on the idea that applying pressure on certain points in the body can restore the energy flow along lines called meridians.
  • Another theory is based on the principle that reflexology can allow energy to flow efficiently by breaking lactic acid crystals that get accumulated in the feet, which can help alleviate symptoms of certain diseases.

What are the benefits of using pressure points?

The purported benefits of using pressure points include the following:

  • Low risk and requires no medications
  • Convenient (can be practiced anytime and anywhere)
  • Relieves stress
  • Alleviates pain
  • Helps maintain dexterity and range of motion
  • Promotes a general sense of relaxation
  • Improves sleep

Stress

Stress has a huge impact on the development of many illnesses, such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, asthma and irritable bowel disease. Stress can also cause autoimmune diseases to flare up, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and eczema.

When pressure is applied to specific pressure points in the body, it can help interrupt the pattern of repetitive stress caused by lifestyle or other habits. This typically requires several reflexology sessions, with the first application interrupting the processes that lead to stress and additional sessions that improve the body’s overall condition.

Pain

Pain creates stress and imbalances in the body. Acupressure helps alleviate the pain caused by injury or disease by stimulating the release of the body's natural pain-relieving chemicals, endorphins, which help with the healing process.

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Is acupressure safe for everyone?

In general, acupressure is a low risk complementary therapy if it is performed by a licensed or certified acupressure practitioner. However, if you have cancer, arthritis, heart disease, or any other chronic condition, talk to your doctor before starting acupressure therapy, especially if sessions require moving certain joints or muscles.

Avoid acupressure if you:

  • Have advanced rheumatoid arthritis, a spinal injury,  other bone disease that could be aggravated by physical pressure
  • Have varicose veins
  • Are pregnant (pressure on certain points can induce contractions)
  • Have cancer that has spread to bones

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Medically Reviewed on 11/8/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Embong NH, Soh YC, Ming LC, Wong TW. Revisiting reflexology: Concept, evidence, current practice, and practitioner training. J Tradit Complement Med. 2015;5(4):197-206. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4624523/

University of Minnesota. What Does the Research Say about Reflexology? https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/reflexology/what-does-research-say-about-refloxology