Western science has yet to uncover hard evidence that qi exists. Oriental theory is that qi is the flow through two opposing forces, yin and yang. An imbalance signifies disease. Acupressure attempts to re-establish this balance by pressure along specific points and meridians.

Some of the most intriguing research suggests that acupressure relieves symptoms of illness by triggering production of neurochemicals, chemical messengers that ferry information between your brain and the rest of your body. Several studies have shown that acupuncture prompts the body to produce neurochemicals responsible for relieving pain, producing feelings of well-being, reducing the inflammation that contributes to asthma and arthritis and regulating appetite.

Acupressure may do the same, says Bruce Pomeranz, M.D., Ph.D., neurophysiologist, professor at the University of Toronto School of Medicine and one of the world's foremost acupuncture researchers.

Acupressure's tension-relieving potential may also explain its effect on pain and other symptoms, suggests Dr. Gach. Numerous studies find that the body's physiological response to stress--increased blood pressure and an outpouring of adrenaline--can contribute to heart disease, depression, irritability, insomnia, headaches, difficulty concentrating, dampened immunity and other problems. "And it's often stress and anxiety that make us want to overeat, and worsen PMS as well," adds Dr. Gach.

Finally, acupressure improves circulation, says Dr. Rothfeld. And that may explain why it helps alleviate related problems, like muscle aches and pains, in people with poor circulation.

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