Understanding Acupressure

“Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) encompasses how the human body interacts with all aspects of life and the environment, including the seasons, weather, time of day, our diet and emotional states. It sees the key to health as the harmonious and balanced functioning of body, mind and spirit, and holds that the balance of health depends on the unobstructed flow of qi (pronounced chee) or “life force/energy” through the body, along pathways known as meridians. Traditional Chinese Practitioners see disease as the result of disruptions in the circulation of qi.” Dr. Andrew Weil

IMG_2418 _SnapseedTCM originated in ancient China and has evolved over thousands of years of practice and observation.  It involves a number of different modalities such as the use of herbs, moxibustion, and various foods as well as a variety of practices such Tui Na (acupressure massage), Tai Chi, and Qigong to bring the body back to its healthiest state — a state of balance. Acupuncture (Acupressure) is one of the key components of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

While an acupuncturist inserts needles into points along various meridians or channels, the acupressure practitioner uses her fingers, thumbs, or hands to “tonify” or “sedate” energy of these “acu-points.” Balancing Chi/Qi is at the heart of acupressure work, but it is informed by and inseparable from the theory of Yin and Yang.

It would take pages to describe the complex theory of Yin and Yang, but if you are interested, I encourage you to read the extensive explanations on the Yin Yang House website.

fiona-acupFor me, the goal of each acupressure session is to find imbalances in the flow of Chi/Qi through the gathering of information from the family, from observational details, and from a full assessment of specific acupoints that help guide each session.

Many people ask what’s the difference between acupuncture and acupressure and the short answer is simply the use of needles. But in my years of practice, I have come to see benefits to both modalities and often refer my clients to a number of excellent veterinarian acupuncturists in the Seattle Area. My own dogs receive regular acupuncture treatments in addition to the work I do with them at home.

Differences between Animal Acupuncture and Animal Acupressure:

  • Animal Acupuncturists MUST BE licensed veterinarians. They therefore have a deeper knowledge of veterinarian medicine and can legally diagnose and prescribe. As an acupressure practitioner, I am not legally allowed to diagnose or prescribe.
  • Acupuncturists use needles along the meridians and can use more needles for a particular animal all at once than an acupressure practitioner who is limited by the use of her fingers, thumbs, and hands. So for instance, an acupuncturist can place 10 needles into 10 different points while I can, at most, work effectively 4-5 depending on their location.
    • It should be noted, that one method is not better than the other, they are just different. More is not always better and many acupuncturists will limit the number of needles they place depending on the condition being treated and the health and age of the animal.
  • Needles can be, but aren’t always, more direct. An acu-point is said to be about the size of a nickel. Some believe acupuncture (needles) triggers a more powerful healing response, while other practitioners see no difference. While an acupuncturist can adjust the depth of the needle and then stimulate the point be adjusting or moving the placed needle, an acupressure practitioner can have much the same effect by adjusting the pressure of her fingers, thumbs, or hands as well as using movement to stimulate the acu-point.
  • While many acupuncturists will tell you that the needles are “painless,” in my experience both from receiving acupuncture myself and observing sessions with my own dogs, there can be some pain involved. Animals are far more sensitive than humans and sometimes, stimulating the acu-point through touch is much less “invasive” than the use of a needle in the same point.

In addition, I also use Moxa (dried mugwort) for certain conditions.There are many different ways toimg_2914 use moxa, but all give off a radiant heat that penetrates the body very well. This makes moxa really good for deficient, cold and stagnant conditions. Like most things in nature, the Qi/Chi (or energy) in our bodies reacts to cold by contracting and heat by expanding. Therefore cold Qi/Chi has a tendency to contract, or stagnate, and warm qi has the tendency to expand, or flow smoothly. By warming the Qi/Chi along the meridians or directly at certain acupoints with moxa, we help to build the Chi/Qi and blood in the body, and improve circulation.

There are two ways to use Moxa — direct and indirect — but since animals are covered in fur/hair, I only use it in an indirect way. I use a Moxa Stick or Pole that, when lit, emits a warm, radiant, and infrared heat. By holding the stick above specific acupressure points or along meridians, I warm the point or meridian to help the flow of Qi/Chi.

Understanding the meridians or channels also informs my work as a massage therapist and I often combine both modalities when working with an animal.