Tuesday, August 03, 2010

What Makes Acupressure Special

I'm often asked whether acupuncture is better than acupressure. Rarely am I asked the opposite. I think that's because the use of needles in acupuncture immediately makes most people assume that it is more effective, more "serious" than simply pressing with one's fingers. After all, most medicine involving needles is "real" medicine, and (in most states) one needs to be a veterinarian to use needles on animals. These technical particulars would lead most people to assume that acupressure is simply a poor cousin, a substitute for the "real thing."

I believe that acupressure is equal to acupuncture, and in one particular respect I believe it is superior, especially when working with animals. 


The beauty of acupressure is that it can be adjusted in the moment to the animal's needs and responses.

Acupuncture treatments can be intense. Usually many needles are inserted at once, and the animal is left for a time with them in, then they are all removed at once. Their experience may be relaxing, it may be stressful. I certainly have experienced both feelings myself when getting acupuncture, wishing the practitioner would return to remove certain needles that were painful. I, as a human, can intellectualize the experience and thus guide myself through any discomfort. I don't believe animals are as capable of that, especially if they've had frightening experiences with medical treatments in the past.

Acupressure sessions with animals are a cooperative healing venture. They take part in their own healing through their acceptance of treatment and the guidance they provide to us on how to do it.

This doesn't always happen at the first session. Some animals need to be shown that they won't be hurt by the treatment, and that the practitioner will respect their boundaries and responses.

In acupressure the touch itself can be adjusted on a particular acu-point.Sometimes only a very light touch is needed, while at other times or locations the animal responds to a more intense pressure. Adjustments can be made in the moment, relieving pressure and simply holding a point with a very light touch as the animal (and the practitioner) breathes in response to the adjustment in energy flow. In many cases the flat of the finger is used to provide a wider, more dispersed pressure, while at other times the tip of the finger is carefully placed and angled. All of these decisions are made in response to the animal's guidance, including the guidance provided by the flow of energy that can sometimes be felt under the hands of the practitioner.

Some points are held for just a second or two, some for thirty or more, and some are returned to later in the session. Again, all these decisions include the response of the animal. Sometimes animals will even get up and walk around the room for a minute, and return to finish the session (or not!).

The location can be adjusted as well. Many dogs, for example, are very sensitive about having their feet touched because the only time they are is for nail trimming (which is not always done well), so they assume that you are going to do something abrupt and painful. Some of these dogs never get over that concern, and need to have other points used. Some animals have painful joints, and the practitioner needs to start with points further away from the effected area, and then use the lightest touch possible when working near the joint, responding at all times to the animal's feedback.

The flow of sessions include pauses, strokes, and breathing. These are part of the process of energy adjustment.

Treatments don't have to look dramatic to be effective. The highest praise an animal can give me is to be more relaxed at the end of a session and to take a nap afterward.

Animals, when allowed to demonstrate their wisdom, can teach practitioners most of what they need to know to provide successful treatments. They demonstrate what it looks like when one is in tune with one's energetic body. If we are willing to learn from them we can become better collaborators in the healing process.

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