Guest contributor: Shelby Jones, Public Relations Manager, ISPA

It can be tough to decide on the right spa treatment. What’s the difference between acupressure and acupuncture anyway? To make the right choice, the first step is to do some homework on your options, then talk with your spa therapist about the right treatment to meet your goals. Being the generous resource that we are, we’re giving you the Cliff Notes version on acupressure, shiatsu and acupuncture below to help you get started.

Acupressure has been practiced in China for centuries and is believed to improve the flow of chi (energy) throughout the body. This massage releases muscle tension and promotes healing by applying pressure to “energy points” or “meridians” in the body. Pressure is applied to these points with the finger for a deep tissue feeling.

Shiatsu is a Japanese massage technique literally meaning “finger pressure.” It’s similar to acupressure because it works with the body’s energy meridians and uses finger-thumb-palm pressure. But, unlike acupressure, which is more of a pinpoint massage, shiatsu manipulates other parts of the body to stimulate balance and healing.

Ashiatsu is the opposite of shiatsu and translates to mean “foot pressure.” The therapist uses overhead bars to balance and apply just the right amount of pressure. It borrows the same techniques as shiatsu and acupressure by utilizing energy points on the body to release tension. (Side note – I’ve tried this treatment, and it’s fantastic if you like deep pressure. Need a better visual? Watch this video of Michelle getting walked all over.)

Acupuncture was developed 3,000 years ago and is based on Taoist philosophy. Like the treatments above it focuses on energy meridians and permits the body to “heal itself.” It does involve inserting fine needles into key points of the body that relate to different organs in order to relieve muscular, neurological and arthritic problems, cure disease and relieve pain. (Side note – I haven’t tried this, but Michelle has, and I have been assured that the needles don’t hurt.)

If you want to learn more about different spa treatments visit ISPA’s spa glossary at

If you’re in the spa industry, we encourage you to become a member of our partner ISPA; weekly emails with pointers like these are just one small part of the package to help you succeed!

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