Last week, we looked at massage as a way to alleviate depression. This week, we will look at something new, acupressure. Acupressure is often called acupuncture without the needles. Instead of needles, acupressure involves the application of manual pressure (usually with the fingertips) to specific points on the body.
According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, the body has vital energy called “chi” or “qi” that flows along invisible lines of energy flow called meridians. There are thought to be at least 14 meridians connecting our organs with other parts of our body. Acupuncture and acupressure points lie on those meridians. If the flow of qi is blocked at any point on a meridian, it’s thought to be the cause of ailments and lead to disease anywhere along the meridian. That’s why a practitioner may apply pressure to an acupressure point in the foot to relieve a headache.
There is no scientific consensus on how acupressure might work. Some theorize that the pressure may promote the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body, called endorphins. Another theory is that the pressure may somehow influence the autonomic nervous system.
Acupressure can also be self-administered. Although it’s best to consult an acupuncturist for proper instruction, acupressure is generally done by using the thumb, finger or knuckle to apply gentle but firm pressure to a point. The pressure is often increased for about 30 seconds, held steadily for 30 seconds to two minutes and then gradually decreased for 30 seconds. It’s often repeated three to five times.
Acupressure is useful in alleviating many of the physical symptoms as well as the sluggishness of mild depression. Acupressure is performed by applying steady, firm pressure on specific points along the body. If you prefer, you can rub on the acupressure point briskly to stimulate them rather than just applying pressure. When stimulated, these spots, which are identical to acupuncture points, correspond to and affect other parts of the body.
According Chinese medicine, depression can occur when you repress certain emotions, such as anger or guilt. Using anti-depression acupressure points can help to release this blocked energy. Once it is free to rise to the surface, you can examine these feelings and try to gain a greater understanding of them.
This week, we will look closer at the application of acupressure in treating depression.