Acupressure Explained, by Guest Blogger Jamee Williams, LMT

Jamee Williams, LMT, demonstrates Acupressure on her colleague.
Jamee Williams, LMT, demonstrates Acupressure on her colleague.

Our licensed massage therapist, Jamee, has been incorporating more acupressure techniques into her massage in recent months and her clients are enjoying excellent results.  I’ve had the privilege of experiencing firsthand the great work she can do with acupressure and am thrilled she agreed to share more with our readers.

The info contained below is by our expert, Jamee. Enjoy! ~Cassie

Acupressure Explained:

According to Chinese Medicine, qi is the vital life force of the body, which, when flowing freely nurtures, sustains, and heals. The qi is directed throughout the body by 12 channels called meridians. Each of these meridians then direct the qi to their corresponding organ points, and it is at these points that blockage (usually due to trauma of a physical, emotional, or mental nature) or stagnation occurs. It is stated that pain is the manifestation of stagnant or sluggish qi.  Acupressure is the practice of tonifying or depleting excess energy at these points as needed, thus creating a harmonious balance between mind and body, yin and yang.

Acupressure v. Acupuncture:

The practice of acupuncture is 5000 years old and the first needles were made out of stone. Acupressure predates acupuncture and even massage by many generations as one of the first forms of medicine. While acupuncture is derived from acupressure, employing the same points and meridians, acupuncture uses various needling techniques requiring a more extensive clinical education. Acupressure relies solely on finger pressure and is non invasive.  I have over 100 hours of training in acupressure and have spent the last two years adapting my massage technique to best relieve blockages and stimulate the inherent self healing capabilities of each client I work with.

EastVillageSpaAcupressure4What is an acupressure session like?

While acupressure points are potent and can be used singly, there are many possible sequences to choose from so I can personalize your treatment to specific needs. During a treatment, you will remain fully clothed, face up on the massage table, while I perform a sequence connecting different points and meridians along the right and left sides of the body.  I will check in about pressure and encourage you to speak up if you experience any discomfort.

Pressure points are generally tender, but should not cause actual pain. A quiet, relaxed mind and body is essential for the work.  It is just as important for the conscious mind to take a break as it is for me to focus on the work.  My clients report a state of deep relaxation, well-being, and even lucid dreaming.

While I use acupressure in each massage, I am very excited to offer it as a stand alone treatment as the effects of a deeper, more focused application are much more pronounced and treatment possibilities much broader.  Even so, acupressure is much like any other bodywork/self care regimen in that you get out of it what you put into it.  Most imbalances take time to build up, so therefor cannot be permanently eliminated in one session.  As acupressure is cumulative, you can expect relief after the first session, but depending on the nature and severity of the problem being addressed, it may take up to 3-5 treatments to achieve lasting results. At the end of each session, we will work together to develop a self care plan for you, and it is important to carry through on that for optimal results.

EastVillageSpaAcupressureMassage6What can acupressure help?

As acupressure focuses on restoring and maintaining the homeostasis throughout the body and mind, any number of conditions will benefit including, but by no means limited to:

  • swollen joints/arthritis/rheumatism
  • joint and muscle pain
  • tendonitis/bursitis
  • depression and anxiety
  • lethargy/adrenal fatigue
  • insomnia
  • Sexual disorders
  • headaches/chronic migraines
  • chronic conditions that may not be responding to traditional forms of treatment
  • many more!


Thank you for taking time to learn more about Acupressure! Jamee Williams, LMT

Sign me up!

If you wish to schedule an acupressure appointment with Jamee, call (515) 309-2904 and request the “custom Eastern Massage” in 60 or 80 minute length. This is not available with an online booking.  You will want to wear comfortable clothing (like gym or yoga clothes) as you will remain fully clothed.  Jamee is currently our only massage therapist offering this service, which is why it is not available for online booking.

When muscles throw a tantrum

One common client myth our therapists would love to bust is the belief that massage has to hurt to work.  Despite over 1000 hours of training and continuing education and years of experience, we regularly have discussions that go kind of like this: “Well, I know you say it is best to NOT beat the snot out of my shoulders, but my cousin’s daycare provider says you are wrong so I want to feel like you just beat me up when I’m done!”

Many clients think hallmark of a good massage therapist is how much pressure they can use.  I’d argue that the hallmark of a good massage therapist is how well they can assess and observe your tissue to determine the precise amount of pressure needed to create change.  Anyone can use heavy pressure.  It is not hard to place a bony elbow on a sensitive muscle group and lean in, or use the edge of a warm stone to strip a tender muscle.   Sure those things can trigger a pain sensation, but that doesn’t mean they’ll do you any good.  A gifted therapist knows WHEN to use heavy pressure and when a lighter touch is more beneficial.

What takes skill is finding source of the pain and paying close attention to how muscles respond to different techniques, speeds, and pressures to determine what to try for the best result.  And a therapist who has lots of techniques to try if their first attempt isn’t working.

Think of a trigger point or “angry” spot in a muscle like a toddler who is throwing a tantrum.  You can yell back all you want, but usually you’ll just exacerbate the tantrum.   Same with “beating up” an already inflamed or tense muscle.  Applying heavy pressure for the sake of applying heavy pressure may just further inflame the tissue which with most techniques, isn’t the goal.tantrumThe best approach to a tantrum (or trigger point) is to stay calm.  Instead of meeting aggression with aggression, a good therapist will calmly try to get to the root of the problem.  It might take a bit of exploration from what seems obvious.  For example, a tantrum in a grocery store might seem like it is about not getting a candy bar, but the root of the tantrum might be a missed nap.  Just like a painful muscle in your calf might be caused by a tight muscle in your gluts.

You never know if your first approach to calm a tantrum will work.  Your massage therapist needs to make an educated assumption at the speed, pressure, or technique to try to relax a muscle or trigger point.   If the muscle isn’t responding to one approach, a therapist will use his or her “listening skills” to gauge if the muscle needs a firmer OR lighter touch, a different position, or even a heat or cold application to encourage the desired response. Sometimes a heavy pressure is the answer, but not always.  One reason people feel like a really painful massage is helpful is because the pain sensation can trigger an endorphin release.  This can mask the pain in the short term, but won’t get to the root of the problem and the pain will most likely return.

Image courtesy of ABMP
Image courtesy of ABMP

Like in a tantrum, sometimes moving away from the situation that has triggered the tantrum will help.  In massage, sometimes moving the body to a new position on the table or incorporating a stretch or movement during treatment will coax the muscle into relaxing.

I took a course from massage therapy pioneer and hall-of-famer, Ralph Stephens and he nailed it with the saying “You cannot inflict relaxation on a muscle.”  Muscles need coaxing, not bullying.  If you have questions about why your massage therapist is using the pressure they are using or whether more or less would be beneficial, please do speak up!  Your feedback is important to help us work with you for the best result, but do understand that if you allow your therapist to do what they are trained to do, really “listen” to the muscle to find the approach that will work best in each situation, you will most likely have a better, longer lasting result.