We love to offer support for our patients in many ways, and one of those is take-home treatments. Acupressure is a form of massage, is easy to do, and is an effective way to stimulate acupuncture points to promote either easing of symptoms, or support body and local tissue functions. In other words, it’s great self-care! Acupressure is done using fingers, palms, or elbows on particular points of the body.
The points, or locations for pressure, can be assigned by your acupuncturist after a treatment to extend acupuncture, or can be used as needed anytime. In thinking about current issues that may be affecting folks now, I have some points to suggest that might be helpful, and are safe for most anyone to do, though if pregnant, please use acupressure with caution, and there is a note about that on one point in particular below.
Do these points help immediately? Sometimes, they can. Often, the effect is gradual since the activation of a point is like opening a gate allowing a flow rather than an on-off switch.
Gallbladder 20 is Feng Chi, or Wind Pool, a great point for many types of headaches, as it is a place where many meridians connect. Its location is at the back of the skull, in a little “valley” where the skull meets the soft tissue of the neck. It is not the valley behind the mastoid bone behind the ear, but the next one behind that. It is often sore when pressed, and can quickly alleviate a headache. Press, looking for a sore feeling, for 10-30 seconds for a young person (or animal!) and 2-3 minutes for most adults, or as long as feels good. Alternatively, this point can be stimulated by rolling a cotton handtowel into a tight roll and leaning the head back upon it (on the floor, or against the back of the couch) for a length of time. It’s a great point to focus on when giving a neck massage to release tension in the back of head and neck. We use this point for: headaches, to clear and open the nose, ears, eyes and more. I think it’s great for allergies this time of year!
Large Intestine 4 is a well-known acupressure point, especially for headaches. This point should be avoided in pregnancy since it can promote uterine contractions. LI 4 is easy to find and to stimulate. To find this point on your hand, close your thumb and pointer finger together- see the mountain that pops up next to the crease? That’s He Gu, or the “Joining Valley,” LI 4. Pinch this point with your thumb and your finger on the palm side of the hand. You should feel a very sore and achey sensation. This point excels at treating headaches in the front of the head, and pain of the face, such as toothache, and can also be used for issues of mouth, nose, eyes and ears. Because it affects the uterus, it can be used for menstrual pain, and is often combined with other points in this case. Many acupuncturists use this point in treatments for stress and other types of pain, because it helps to “move qi,” or dislodge stuck energy.
Two points that are close together beside the nose are great to help open the sinuses. I use the knuckle of my thumb to press these points, as I breathe in and out very strongly with my nose. (The “out” exhalation can be like a snort, and can carry some material with it!) To find, press on the side of your nostrils (there is a sore spot there!) and from there you can rub your thumb up and then back down, with just enough pressure to feel the soreness. I usually have my patients do a nice, slow, deep inhalation, with the quick snort, while rubbing back and forth between these 2 points on either side of the nose.
St 36 , Zu San Li or “Leg three miles”, is a very famous and widely used acupuncture point. This is a point I show patients who need a little “pick-me-up,” in situations like low energy, low spirits, dizziness or even something like a drop in blood pressure. It is regulating, meaning that it just helps to nudge body functions in the right direction, so it is also used clinically for high blood pressure. It’s helpful for stomach issues like nausea or low appetite and weak digestion. I would recommend it for those feeling emotionally overwhelmed or agitated right now, those who need a little extra grounding or strength, or to feel a little more security through these times of transition and uncertainty. This point is often used with moxibustion, which is a heat treatment using the mugwort herb. Moxa is very warming and more strongly tonifying than acupuncture or acupressure. Contact your acupuncturist if you want to know if moxa could be helpful for you. We may be able to arrange a video call to teach you to apply moxa at home.
Du 20, or Bai Hui, “Hundred Meetings,” is another commonly used point in acupuncture, as well as Tai Chi and QiGong practice. I will always remember one of my acupuncture teachers having us tap this point to keep awake in class, as it is very good to open the consciousness and the mind! Find it at the point at the top of the head, or really just slightly behind the very top of the head, at a flat spot. Tap here, or press, and it does have a slight ache or feeling that radiates over the head in a pleasant way. Besides helping you to wake up, this point can bring up energy, lift your spirit, clear the senses (try for ringing ears), and is helpful if you feel life is falling apart a bit, and so much more. If you have a meditation practice, this point can be used as a focal point in circulating energy and focus into the head, and the upper section of the body. In more spiritual practices, it connects us to the celestial influences, and the wisdom of our ancestors.
Use these points alone, on either or both sides of the body, or use in combinations that feel right to you. If you have any questions, contact your acupuncturist. We are available for phone or video consults at this time. We can recommend acupressure for self-care and advise about moxibustion if that’s appropriate for you. Stay tuned for more acupressure tips!
by Blake Faulkner, L.Ac.