If you have been experiencing health issues that conventional medicine hasn't been treating to your satisfaction -- or if you just don't want to deal with your doctor to begin with -- alternative therapies such as acupuncture may be on your radar. However, the needles involved in acupuncture may be an issue for you if you don't like needles. You've got a couple of other options -- acupressure and reflexology -- that will allow you to seek treatment without triggering needle phobia. Which one you choose depends on how comfortable you are with people touching you.
In a nutshell, acupressure is acupuncture without the needles. The practitioner uses his or her hands and fingers to hold pressure points. Acupressure is also, as you can guess, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques and is usually accompanied by dietary consultations, herbal treatments, and other therapies that accompany acupuncture.
Reflexology involves mainly the feet. Sometimes a practitioner will want to use a patient's hands, or rarely, ears, if the patient has a foot injury. Pressure points are triggered by hand, again, but these points are not always the same as what acupressure would use. Another key difference is the origin of reflexology. Modern reflexology is a Western concept mixed with Chinese knowledge.
The University of Minnesota notes that there are ancient forms of reflexology from civilizations such as India, China, and Egypt, but the modern form that's used now is a fusion of discoveries mainly from American researchers in the early to mid 20th century. The American Academy of Reflexology notes that French and Chinese researchers built upon those discoveries in the mid 20th century.
If you are new to bodywork -- that's the name for disciplines like massage, reflexology, and acupressure -- and are unsure of how deep you want to go in terms of treatment, reflexology could be an excellent way to start. Because the practitioner uses only feet, hands, and ears, he or she will not have to touch you anywhere else. Acupressure uses points all over the body, and if you are uncomfortable with being touched on your back or midsection, for example, acupressure could be difficult to get used to. But reflexology would be right up your alley.
On the other hand, if you really wanted that full Traditional Chinese Medicine experience and just didn't want needles, acupressure would be better. Reflexology concentrates on the points and physical manipulation, and not on herbal or dietary treatments, or exercises like qi gong. You might find those offered at some offices, but that will depend on the specialization of the practitioner there (for example, a licensed acupuncturist and TCM doctor who also provides reflexology treatments).
If you'd like to try out some reflexology, set up an appointment for a consultation through a company like Advanced Alternatives Massage Therapy. The reflexology practitioner can help you decide which issues to try treating as a test so you can see how well the therapy suits you.