Focus on acupressure

The intent of acupressure is to maintain or replenish a harmonious flow of blood and life-promoting energy called chi throughout the body.

In accord with TCM concepts, when there’s a disruption in the flow of chi and blood, the internal organ systems are unable to perform their vital functions and the body is apt to become compromised. When the body is compromised, the animal’s immune system is unable to cope with external or internal pathogens and can fall prey to disease. The entire focus of TCM is to support health by preserving the harmonious flow of chi and blood to nourish the entire body. How acupressure works

After thousands of years of clinical observation and documentation, Chinese doctors understood that there are channels or energetic pathways, known as meridians, which run through the body at specific locations. These meridians are responsible for communicating with internal organs and circulating chi, blood and other vital substances.

There are 12 Major Meridians and two Extraordinary Vessels that run just beneath the skin. Each of the 12 meridians –which are bilateral — are named after the internal organs to which they are connected. We are able to influence the flow of chi and blood along these meridians because they have “pools” of energy called “acupoints” situated along them. By palpating or stimulating these acupoints, we can resolve blockages or stagnations that impede the flow of chi and blood.

Acupoints have particular energetic attributes that influence the movement of chi and blood. For example, the acupoint called Gall Bladder 34 (GB 34 – the 34th acupoint on the Gall Bladder meridian) influences the flow of chi and blood to the tendons and ligaments when it is palpated. We would use GB 34 to nourish those tissues and increase their strength and flexibility.

TCM is best used to prevent illness but is also effective in managing chronic health issues. Casework demonstrates that acupressure can enhance overall health and emotional stability. Specifically, it can: – Build the immune system – Strengthen muscles, tendons, joints and bones – Balance energy to optimize the body’s natural ability to heal – Release natural cortisone to reduce swelling and inflammation – Release endorphins necessary to increase energy or relieve pain – Enhance mental clarity and calm required for focus in training and performance – Resolve injuries more readily by increasing the blood supply and removing toxins.

1. Canine case study

Oakie, an 11-month old golden retriever, had a triple osteotomy three weeks prior to visiting the acupressure practitioner. The owners wanted to support the dog’s healing process and mitigate pain. Because acupressure is non-invasive and deceptively gentle, Oakie welcomed the comfort of an acupressure session. The acupoints used for the session were Gall Bladder 29 (GB 29), Gall Bladder 30 (GB 30) and Bladder 54 (Bl 54) – see the accompanying diagram for the location of these points. When these three points are used in combination, the technique is called “surrounding the dragon”. These acupoints literally surround the injured area, “the dragon”, and can effectively reduce edema, inflammation and pain.

The Bai Hui point was also selected because this point is known to enhance the flow of chi and blood to the hindquarters and spinal column. Bladder 60 (Bl 60), called the “aspirin point”, was included in the session as an analgesic.

The veterinary surgeon that performed Oakie’s surgery was pleased with the speed of his recovery at his one-month check, and he was released from care.

2. Equine case study

Starlight, a seven-year old Arabian mare, is an endurance competition horse. She was showing all the indications of anhidrosis: no sweating, heavy breathing after minimal exercise, elevated pulse and temperature. She also appeared distressed and lethargic during periods of hot humid weather. Starlight was given three acupressure sessions over a ten-day period to support the lungs and spleen and to clear heat. In Chinese medicine, an anhidrotic horse’s lungs are not circulating fluids from the spleen to the surface of the body, resulting in a lack of sweat. The acupoints below were selected to help regulate sweat, increase lung yin and chi, enhance spleen chi, and promote the circulation of Defensive (Wei) Chi:

• Lu 7 — promotes sweating, clear heat

• LI 4 — promotes sweating and Wei Chi circulation

• Ht 7 — clears heat, calms the spirit

• Bl 13 — supports the lung

• Bl 17– benefits skin dehydration

• Bl 20 — supports the spleen

• Ki 7 — regulates sweating

• TH 4 — supports thermoregulation

• GV 14 — regulates sweating and calms the spirit

After three acupressure sessions that included a combination of these acupoints, Starlight showed no signs of anhidrosis and was able to resume training and competition.

3. Feline case study

Urine and blood tests indicated that Teddy, a nine-year old neutered male, was in the beginning stages of feline chronic renal failure (Feline CRF). His owners consulted a holistic veterinarian and followed her dietary recommendations. She suggested acupressure as well and the owners worked with a practitioner to learn three bilateral acupoints to be palpated every third or fourth day to help manage Teddy’s kidney disorder – see the accompanying diagram for these acupoints.

In TCM, the kidneys are often referred to as the “Root of Life”. The kidneys store the original “essence” of the body and are responsible for growth, reproduction and physical development. They are the foundation of the human or feline body. Any insult to the kidneys or dysfunction of same is seen as critical.

We are living in a time when veterinarians have the opportunity to provide their patients with optimal care by combining Western conventional medicine with traditional healing therapies.


Nancy Zidonis and Amy Snow are the authors of Equine Acupressure: A Working Manual, Acu-Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure, The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure, and, Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure. They founded Tallgrass, offering books, manuals, DVDs and meridian charts. Tallgrass also provides hands-on and online training courses worldwide, including a 330-hour Practitioner Certification Program. Tallgrass is an approved school for the Department of Higher Education through the State of Colorado, and an approved provider of NCBTMB CE’s. To contact Tallgrass call 888-841-7211, visit or email