Acupressure, which uses finger pressure on specific points on the body, has been around for thousands of years, and is believed to actually pre-date acupuncture (which uses needles to stimulate those points instead). Both acupressure and acupuncture are a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and are used all over the world now on humans and animals alike.
In order to understand how acupressure works, you must first understand how TCM views the body. In TCM, the body is not seen as being made up of many various parts, but instead as one whole, integrated system. The mind, body, and spirit are all connected as a single entity. A life force, known as Chi (Qi) flows throughout the body via meridians, or internal pathways. There are said to be 12 major meridians, each one named for the internal organ with which it is associated.
Chi has two major aspects: Yin and Yang, which are opposite, but mutually dependent on one another. If the body is healthy, Yin and Yang are considered to be perfect balance. In an unhealthy body, Yin and Yang are out of balance, and physical symptoms often arise if the imbalance is not soon resolved. Acupressure can help to restore the balance of Yin and Yang within the body.
Each if the 12 Major Meridians contains acu-points, usually at specific anatomical locations. When an imbalance occurs in the body, Chi is said to be obstructed. By applying pressure on specific acu-points, Chi can be released to flow freely throughout the body once again, and the balance of Yin and Yang can be restored.
In recent years, Western Medicine has sought to understand acupressure and explain it in terms more comprehensible to the Western World. Although there are some aspects of acupressure and TCM that are nearly impossible to translate into Western terms, many Western scientists believe that acupressure (or acupuncture) stimulates the body’s ability to produce endorphins (natural painkillers).
Acupressure is becoming much more accepted in the Western world and is often used in conjunction with Western medical treatments. Some effects of acupressure include:
- reducing pain
- relieving muscle spasms
- resolving injuries more quickly by removing toxins and increasing blood supply
- enhancing mental clarity
- releasing natural cortisone to reduce swelling
- building the body’s immune system
When applying acupressure to your horse, typically the forefinger or thumb is used. Light pressure is usually preferable and is tolerated by most horses. Extreme sensitivity in an acu-point usually indicates excess Chi in that area. Pressure is usually applied to each selected acu-point for 10-20 seconds or until a release, or visible sign such as licking/chewing, head-lowering, yawning, etc., is shown by the horse.
To see how acupressure is performed on a horse, see this video:
For more information on learning equine acupressure, I highly recommend the book, Equine Acupressure: A Working Manual.