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Acupressure is an non-invasive ancient healing art that uses the fingers to press key points on the surface of the skin to stimulate the body's natural self-curative abilities. Unlike veterinary acupuncture done with needles, acupressure treatments, can easily be done by the pet owner at home.
Disease in the body is a state of either excess or deficiency of one or more of the vital substances. The longer that the excess or deficiency, is present the more out-of-balance the animal becomes. A greater imbalance produces more advanced symptoms. The goal of acupressure is to reverse the pathological state and restore the normal flow of QI (energy within the animal). Treatment may involve several stages in which blockages are gradually removed and normal Qi flow is restored.
Indications of Use
Clinical trials and research indicate that acupuncture/acupressure therapy can be effective in treating numerous conditions. Acupressure provides pain relief, anti-inflammatory effects, and hormone regulation. These effects are helpful in treating a variety of conditions. Muscle soreness, back pain, disc disease, osteoarthritis, and degenerative joint disease comprise the largest group of problems that can be treated with acupressure. Neurological disorders (e.g. seizures, radial nerve paralysis, and laryngeal paralysis) and gastrointestinal disorders may also be helped. Acupressure is very successful as an complimentary treatment in Cushing's disease, hypothyroidism, infertility, asthma, cough, behavioral problems, geriatric weakness, irritable bowel syndrome and skin diseases. It can also be used in emergency first aid to resuscitate an animal who has collapsed.
In many cases, acupressure and Chinese or Western herbs are successfully used in medical conditions that have not responded to traditional western veterinary medical practices. However, acupressure is not an alternative to proper medical care. If your pet is suffering from an illness or injury, obtain veterinary care as soon as possible.
Acupressure should not be done on an area where the animal exhibits extreme sensitivity. If you inadvertently touch an area that is painful, release the pressure immediately. If you pet shies away from being touched in a certain spot, an injury, a localized infection, or a behavioral problem could cause this sensitivity. The sensitive area may relate to a meridian line and sometimes to a specific organ associated with that meridian. If you are able to pinpoint a specific area that is extremely uncomfortable when touched, consult a veterinary acupuncturist to have it checked.
Some health problems can be aggravated by acupressure if you are working around an injured area. Do not apply acupressure directly to wounds, bruises, cuts or surgical incisions, you could damage tissue and increase pain. However, it can be helpful to press points that are near an injury in order to increase circulation in the area. Use only the points that are not painful. If your pet indicates he is in pain when you touch a point, you are too close to the injury.
Preparing to Administer Acupressure
Before starting an acupressure treatment, wash and dry your hands thoroughly. If your hands are cold, run them under warm water. Both you and the animal to be treated should be calm and relaxed. Acupressure should not be preformed on an animal that has been traumatized, just exercised or has just eaten.
Locating Acupressure Points
Unlike acupuncture, acupressure doesn't have to be totally "on target" to be effective. If you are near the acupoint, you will be doing lots of good whether you've hit the precise point or not. By pressing in the vicinity of the point, you will still increasing energy flow in the associated meridian line. Correctly applied pressure should be placed in the valleys of muscle. You should never press into a major nerve, on bone, the spinal cord, or a body cavity.
An excellent source for detailed information on acu-points and full color illustrated charts for dogs, cats and horses can be found at Pet Remedy Charts.
Pressing the Points
Acupressure is done by exerting pressure with one finger on precise places on the body. Most often, you will use either the middle finger or the thumb. Sometimes, you will find it easier to use one or the other, depending on the exact spot you are treating.
To determine the amount of pressure to use, experiment on your own body, pressing your thumb or middle finger against various places on your face, chest, arm and on your other hand, for 10 to 15 seconds. The pressure should be firm enough so that you experience it as hard and steady, but it should not be painful or damaging to the skin. Always go into a point slowly, beginning with light pressure and increasing it to tolerance. Some animals are more sensitive and will need less pressure. Others will need more pressure for the treatment to be effective. Let the animal be your guide. The technique involves applying light to firm pressure, or circular massage over an acupoint. When holding the point maintain steady, firm pressure, this will help you to avoid angles that may cause you to slip or slide in to or out of a point over the animals fur.
Stimulation of an acupoint is generally around 10 to 15 seconds. Acupoints are the same on both sides of the animal. If you work a point on the right side you should also work the corresponding point on the left side of the body.
The session should not be painful and is well-tolerated by most animals. The entire acupressure treatment should always be comfortable for patients. However, in cases of pregnancy (certain points may cause abortion), open wounds, or infectious diseases, acupressure is contraindicated.
Closing the Session
After an acupressure session you should preform The Closing. This has two functions: one, is to strengthen the energy flow between the points on the same meridians stimulated during your point work; and second, it establishes a healthy cellular memory pattern. Cellular memory is the cell's learned response to a chronic stimulus such as pain. The Closing phase helps the body to maintain the state achieved during point work.
Flat Hand Closing Technique
To perform the Closing, position your hand flat with your palm and fingers in full contact with the animal your working on. Using light pressure slide your hand over your pet from front to rear and top to bottom. Start at the neck, then go over the shoulder, across the back and over the hips. Proceed down the back leg, passing over the hock and terminate the Closing at the end of the rear foot/paw/hoof. Do this on both sides of the body.
Allow your pet to rest for several hours before resuming work or strenuous exercise.
Chinese or Western Herbal medications can be chosen to support the acupressure treatment.
Lorelei Whitney, M.H., C.Hom.