Acupressure - which is literally "finger pressure" or "touch communication" - is said to be able to help relieve many kinds of health problems like asthma, everyday ailments like knee pain, and even stress-related disorders like tightness around the neck. How does it work? And what are the advantages this traditional therapy in Chinese medicine has over modern medicine? We spoke to a local acupressurist for an insight into this increasingly popular mode of healing.
When a little child hurts himself while playing, what is his immediate reaction? Apart from crying out of course, he will immediately rub the injured part. If there is bleeding, he will press the injured part and run to you.
No one taught this to the child. It is a natural programming of the mind. It is a natural reflex and this is what Chinese acupressure is all about.
"We are all born with the knowledge of acupressure. But, unfortunately, when we become adults, we forget the body's natural responses. If an adult were to injure his hand, he will say, 'Don't touch this arm of mine. I must go and see a doctor. I must go and get a jab.'" These are the words of Madam Cheah, a practitioner of Chinese acupressure. A qualified nurse herself, Madam Chean switched to the field of oriental medical science when the medical science that she was trained in could not cure her mother of rheumatoid arthritis. "In 1968, my mother who was then 49 years old was bed-ridden with rheumatoid arthritis for 9 months. She was under the care of a doctor who is now a leading physician in Penang who told us she could not be cured. Today, she is 75 and is still walking Ñ thanks to acupressure," she said.
Madam Cheah herself developed many health problems but was able to overcome them through acupressure. "After the birth of my second child in 1974, I had palpitations followed by deafness. The following year my hair suddenly turned glistening steel. A Chinese physician told me that my liver was almost 'gone' and gave me only 6 months to live," she recalled.
Chinese acupressure can be practised while sitting, chatting or even talking over the phone.
Pressure is applied directly to the area and not against nerves, scar tissue to veins. "We press only on the meridians. These are the pathways along which the essence of vitality flows and which gives strength. They are usually alongside the vessels. We must be careful not to press the vessels. We only apply pressures. We do not rub," explains Madam Cheah.
"When you treat with Chinese acupressure," says Madam Cheah, "you stimulate the nerves. You activate the nerves to function again. Whereas when you take painkillers as in Western medicine, it paralyses the nerves so you feel no pain. But when the nerve wakes up again, we feel more pain and heavier doses will be needed to fight the pain. "In the end the side-effects are worse than what you're suffering and the side-effects of the drugs kill you faster than the disease itself." Knowing acupressure is like being a mechanic to our body mechanism. Anyone with some knowledge of acupressure and is willing to practise it on himself can avoid being confined to a wheelchair or be bed-ridden, Madam Cheah believes.
All we need is to put a little effort at mastering it, she says. For example, if we have a headache, the natural reflex would be to press the head. Some effort at learning the accurate points will relieve you of the pain much faster.
"If your blood pressure is high, pressing on the relevant points can start to regulate blood pressure. If you are feeling tight around the neck and heavy in the head, then go for the head and shoulder points," she explained.
Saved from surgery
For Madam Jyoti, in her late 60's, acupressure saved her from a life-threatening surgical operation. Generally, a very active lady, she developed severe pain in her lower back radiating down to her leg. It became so unbearable that she could not even walk at one point. Two orthopaedic surgeons gave the same verdict - surgery was imperative; otherwise she might never be able to walk. But surgery at her age was risky as she also had a weak heart.
A relative introduced her to a masseur who specialised in acupressure. After just a few weekly sessions she was able to stand and walk slowly. After a couple of months of continued treatment, she was able to walk normally.
She still takes precautions like not exerting herself too much and keeping her feet warm. But she is glad that she didn't have to undergo surgery.