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What are Pressure Points?

By Holly Collins
Updated May 23, 2024
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Pressure points are sensitive areas of the body where pressure can be applied to cause certain effects or sensations. Properly applying pressure to these spots can cause pleasure, relief of pain, relief of stress or healing, as in acupuncture and reflexology. These points also can be used to cause pain, injury or incapacitation in certain forms of martial arts and other types of combat. In modern medicine, pressure points are defined as areas of the body that have high nerve density. The concentration of nerves in one area of the body results in hypersensitivity in that area.


There is no consensus for how many pressure points the body has or their exact locations. One hundred points are used in traditional Chinese medicine, but other sources believe that there might be thousands of them. Their number and locations also can vary depending on the way in which they are being used.


Sometimes called zone therapy, reflexology uses pressure that is applied by the fingers, elbows or other instruments to massage or push on the subject's pressure points in the feet, hands and ears, thereby redirecting energy pathways. Based on the belief that all of the body’s major organs are represented by specific points on the hands, feet or ears, reflexology holds that by stimulating the matching pressure points, corresponding organs will be helped. The benefits of stimulating these points include improved circulation, stress relief and repaired energy flow. All of this is considered by many people to help the body function more efficiently and heal.


A branch of traditional Chinese medicine called acupuncture teaches that the body has points where energy accumulates and its flow is inhibited. By penetrating these spots with tiny needles, energy pathways are thought to be redirected, thereby benefiting the subject's overall health and healing. Acupressure is a similar practice, but instead of using needles, pressure is applied using the practitioner's bare hands.

Martial Arts

At the other end of the spectrum, the study of pressure points for use in martial arts and other types of combat is aimed at identifying those areas of the body that are susceptible to causing extreme pain or injury. These points are identified so that they can be attacked, thereby injuring an opponent or rendering him or her incapacitated. The eyes, nose and groin are commonly cited combat pressure points. Two spots under the jaw bone, one on each side of the face, are often taught in self-defense classes as primary pressure points to be used by victims of violence.

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Discussion Comments
By julies — On Apr 07, 2012

How effective is using something like acupressure on yourself? If I were to look at a reflexology or acupressure chart and apply pressure to those areas would I get good results?

Is this something that is more effective if somebody else does it for you? I am interested in this type of therapy but don't have any extra money to spend.

My insurance company would not pay for me to have acupuncture so I am wondering if anyone has had good results doing this at home?

My biggest problem is headaches that I am having a hard time controlling. I get tired of taking over-the-counter pain relievers and would like to find a natural way to relieve the tension.

By golf07 — On Apr 06, 2012

I was recently introduced to essential oils and how they can be used for medicinal purposes. These are therapeutic oils that are different from the fragrance essential oils.

One of the best ways to get results using these is to apply them to the different pressure points on the feet.

For instance, if I am having trouble sleeping I apply some lavender essential oil to my big toe and the area right underneath this toe.

By applying the oil and using slight pressure as I do so, this is supposed to have more effect than applying it to other parts of the body.

This is all fairly new to me and I am still experiencing with it to see how it works. I find it fascinating that all the parts of our body are linked to a spot on our feet.

I know some people who have used reflexology for a long time and really swear by it. I am still enjoying learning about it and hope I continue to get good results with it.

By SarahSon — On Apr 06, 2012

I have received a lot of benefit from using some Chinese medicine techniques for relief from pain.

I suffer from headaches, back and neck pain as the result of whiplash from a car accident I was in. I did not want to rely on prescription drugs to get relief from my pain, so checked out acupuncture.

The history of acupressure goes back a long ways, and the Chinese have been using it for centuries. I figured that is a long enough track record to know people are getting results from it.

I was a little nervous at first, but was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. I see someone who has been doing this for a long time.

At my first appointment she showed me the acupressure guide she uses and how different pressure points coincide with other areas on my body.

I find it very interesting how all of this is linked together and how they can use this to help with pain relief.

By John57 — On Apr 05, 2012

I have a therapeutic massage done once a month which really helps me with my stress and tension. Any kind of massage is very relaxing, but my therapeutic massage therapist really knows how to give good results.

There are several pressure points on my back and neck where she can sense I have the most tension. When she first begins working those areas, they are very sensitive and sore.

By the time she is done, those spots are no longer sensitive and I can feel the tension as it leaves my body.

Every month when she begins working on me she tells me how tight I am, and can identify those pressure points in a hurry. I just wish the results lasted longer than they do.

After a few days of sitting at the computer all day and chasing kids around I feel that tension creep back into my neck and back. If I could afford it, I would have this massage done more often than once a month.

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