Exploring the Science Behind Acupressure: Bridging Tradition and Modernity

August 20, 2021
2 min

clear glass bottle with yellow liquid inside

Nearly every day we're asked if there's data to back up  the efficacy of acupressure. We often talk about Chinese medicine from the perspective of energy movement, which can create a misconception that it is somehow not scientific or not evidence based.  In reality, we have a solid understanding of the Western scientific basis of both acupuncture and acupressure, and new studies are published almost daily supporting them.

So how does acupressure work?

There are a few different mechanisms at play, but the largest is a network of connective tissue in your body called fascia.

If you ever dissected an animal in high school biology you should be familiar with this stuff - it's the filmy connective tissue that covers every organ and muscle in your body. It's assembled in long bands, encasing your internal structures almost like links of sausage. For many years we thought fascia's only purpose was to reduce friction when structures move against one another, but in the last 10 years or so we've discovered that it's actually a very alive and changeable tissue.  

Interestingly, places where these bands of fascia overlap map with 80% accuracy to places we think of as acupoints, and the trajectory of the bands of fascia look just like what we consider to be the energetic channels of the body. Fascia also changes in response to pressure (like acupressure) and injury (like acupuncture). Depending on where, and how, you stimulate an acupoint, the result can be as simple as increasing blood flow to an organ, or as complex as changes in your gene expression.  

All of this data taken together, means the current prevailing theory is that acupuncture and acupressure work by manipulating fascia. By manipulating fascia, they can manipulate blood flow and neurological function of things inside fascia (like organs), and around fascia (like the lymphatic system).

If you're interested in a more in depth discussion on the science of acupressure, this is a fantastic book we highly recommend (with lots of peer reviewed research)!

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