Acupressure as Self-Care

Acupressure can be a surprisingly effective at-home treatment, and is fairly easily done by someone with little to no experience. The only trick can be in finding the right location. First, how do acupuncture points work? The answer isn’t simple but modern science suggests that part of the theory is that acupuncture (done in the clinic with needles by a license acupuncturist) and acupressure (the application of pressure to these same acupoint locations) stimulates the release of endorphins by the brain that have a pain-relieving effect, like morphine.

     Secondly, stimulation of these points affects local nerves, changing the message of pain to the brain via spinal cord/spinal nerves. And interestingly, stimulation of these points acts to moderate electrical activity or ionic exchange in local areas, functioning like little transformers or boosters. There is much scientific research being done in this field which reveal more of the ancestors of Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture just put into different words.

    For example, “Qi” represents a potential for proper functioning, of either an area or limb, or a system in the body. Is this nervous system functioning, electrical activity, change in chemicals or hormones? Possibly any or all of these. 

   This article is part 2 in a series of suggestions for acupressure points to be used at home that are most useful for many general and some specific complaints. Last time I gave points such as Large Intestine 4, and Stomach 36 among others, and today we build on those. 

    To stimulate an acupressure point, use a finger or thumb, a knuckle, or two or three fingers together with direct pressure that is firm, but not too hard. Press the point lightly at first, and then progress to a deeper pressure, until you find a distending sensation around the point, or a dull ache that either spreads around or travels outward from the point. Press and hold the point, until pain subsides, or perhaps until an ease is felt, or muscles relax. Times to take caution: with someone who has an injury avoid acupoints near the site of injury; with children, only light pressure is needed; and with pregnant women, they should always check with their licensed acupuncturist first before using acupressure, even if information is found on the web. I include some points below that should NOT be used for pregnant women.

    Liver 3-Tai Chong, “Great Surging,” or “Great Thoroughfare”, this is definitely a point to get things moving! NOTE: not to be used in pregnancy. Located between the big toe and the second toe, in the divot just above where your flip-flop thong would sit. When pressed correctly, there is a little pressure of ache here. This is a very widely used acupuncture point, often in combo with its friend Large Intestine -4 (on the hand, see my previous article.)

    When used together, these powerful points are used for tension, stress, headaches and even facial paralysis, vertigo or dizziness. They can relieve pain all over the body, but work great for head and eye issues. I’ve assigned this point many times to kids who get headaches as a result of eye strain or staring at a computer for too long. That can be many of us these days, as we do more work and school tasks from home. Alone, Liver 3 is useful for certain kinds of headaches, calming the spirit, supporting someone who has been diagnosed as “blood deficient,” and help with reproductive or menstrual issues, such as menstrual cramps. 

    Large Intestine-10, Shou San LI, “Arm Three Miles”, another endurance point like St-36, Zu San Li, its mirror equivalent on the leg. LI 10 is located just below the crease at your elbow when it is bent. There is a small valley or divot here if you use light pressure to find it. It is about two thumb widths (your own thumb) below this elbow crease, in a muscular spot. Acupressure at this point on the arm can be helpful for arm tension involving the whole arm, including the shoulder and wrist. It energizes the whole arm, can relieve pain. I suggest this one for those who are typing all day at their computers. It can help to rotate the affected joint while pressing the point.

   Pericardium-6, Nei Guan, “Inner Gate,” is located on the inner wrist between the two prominent tendons, about two thumb widths away from the wrist crease, and is largely knows as the “nausea point.” And for good reason, since it’s used for nausea of many kinds, as well as vomiting, seasickness, hangovers, and stomachache. Nei Guan regulates “Heart Qi” and is used frequently in acupuncture sessions for chest symptoms, including diaphragm tightness, and so can be useful for a stuffy feeling in the chest, or shallow breathing. Nei Guan can have a calming effect often, reflecting the entwined concept of the Heart and the mind in Chinese medicine.

    Auricular or ear acupuncture developed much later than the traditional acupoints of Asian medicine, and is based moreso in modern biomedicine. I have often recommended ear massage to my patients as a way to bring overall calm, especially those prone to anxiety. Many points on the ear work to encourage homeostasis of the body’s systems, and promote overall relaxation. The points are a little too precise to describe the location of for this purpose, but overall massage does the job for many. Try using thumb and forefinger on an ear, taking care to reach all parts, front and back, with gentle pressure, massaging until the ear feels warm. If you choose to massage only one ear, choose the one on your dominant side. Ear massage works well for self, for loved ones, for little ones and for furry friends as well. Use lighter pressure for the small ones!

    If you aren’t sure about the point location or would like more personalized advice about acupressure, you can schedule a telemedicine acupressure consultation here!

by Blake Faulkner, L.Ac.

A more affordable option…

We know that you have missed our Community Clinic!  While the protocols for pandemic safety still prevent
us from having groups together in one room, we are happy to announce a hybrid of sorts.

Beginning September 21, we will offer Basic Acupuncture on Monday afternoons. Straightforward
treatments will be provided in private rooms, at 20 minute scheduling intervals. This will allow us to see
several patients per hour at a reduced fee of $60.

Like Community Clinic, this setting is intended to provide lower cost acupuncture for uncomplicated health
concerns. If you need herb formulas or other therapies like moxa or cupping, you would need to schedule a
regular private appointment. But basic acupuncture is wonderful for all kinds of pain, stress and many other
issues. If you aren’t sure if it’s right for you, feel free to contact us with questions.

Due to time constraints, we can not see first time patients in this setting. However, once you are established, we are happy to schedule you for this basic treatment. This option is not currently available for online
scheduling, but click the link below and we will contact you quickly to get you scheduled.

Please know that we will re-open community clinic as soon as it is safe to do so.


Request a basic acupuncture appointment

Taking Care of Ourselves and Each Other

We recently began a conversation about how we were coping through the pandemic and our socio-political situation. We thought we’d share a bit of that here in case it’s useful to anyone else.

Melissa

In the spring I began making friends with the crows. It takes significant time and patience- but now I can count on them to get me outdoors even if I don’t want to go. When they are hungry, they are loud! Calm and stillness are required, so it builds in at least a few minutes every day to practice those things.”

Heather

“I’ve been letting go of expectations: of myself, of the people around me, and of the world…and appreciating as many individual moments as I can.  I long ago abandoned the “projects I was going to finish during quarantine.”  The only thing I’m demanding of myself beyond work obligations is that I get outside and move as much as possible.  I’ve also started writing real letters to old friends. When I get an actual letter in the mail, it makes me feel like a kid again! When I get down, I read my old standbys: Pema Chodron, Abigail Thomas, Karen Maezen Miller, and Louise Penny. 

I’m cherishing the extra time I have with my children. We are playing a lot of cards and finding funny TV shows we can enjoy together. We are talking about current events. We are educating ourselves about things that don’t get taught in school and donating to organizations doing good work. It gives me hope to hear them say, “our generation is going to change the world.”

Debby

I have increased my meditation practice and this has helped weather the solitude. We have a national Prayer circle which meets online every night and this has solidified my practice, praying daily for friends and world peace. And I try to stay away from news. I read more, sit on my porch with the birds, bees and butterflies. I have loved the additional time in nature. Oh and I am learning to bake bread!! Oh my gosh what fun! 

Diane

My primary conversation with myself over the last number of months has revolved around a question – “How can I love myself through this”. I find that this question keeps me in, and helps me return to, a place of compassion that is also proactive. If I sit with the question – especially in meditation – it clarifies and calms. It helps to get me out of the angst and spin of helplessness and hopelessness. It helps me look at myself and my painful emotions with more ‘kindsight’. 

I sometimes also remind myself that while, staying “positive” is great – and important – but it’s not the only thing that matters. I don’t want to look away from the suffering and injustices I am seeing right now – just because it’s disturbing. While balance is important, I think there can also be great value in temporarily losing equilibrium. Chaos is an integral, and even necessary, part of the process of change and growth. It can be in the midst of the discomfort and the pain of looking ugliness and horror in the face when we find and connect with ourselves in deeper and more profound ways, and become instruments of change. I don’t want to cling to my own peace at the cost of turning away from the suffering that is happening around me because it is disturbing. This perspective helps give me a sense of purpose that allows me to approach the work I am doing, and the grief I am experiencing, with more self-compassion.  

Susan

I have been caring for my parents since March 8. Some weeks more than others. And as much as I love them, I have repeating feelings of frustration, anger and resentment (sometimes at the same time) as the three of us move deeper into what it means to grow older and for the parent/child table to be turned.

I have found it very helpful to (attempt) regular little rituals of self care. Early morning coffee with my cat – I pet her and practice breathing exercises that relax my nervous system. Getting out in the early morning to ride my bike. Soaking in a warm tub at night. 

I have learned to exhale before speaking. Or to not speak when agitated. To also hold on to different fingers (as Diane taught me) – thumb for worry, index finger for fear, middle finger for anger, ring finger for sadness, pinkie finger for self esteem. It’s amazing how well that works! And, if a day comes that I just can’t manage anything remotely resembling self-care, I just let that happen. Eventually, I remember all I have to be grateful for…

Brandy

 I planted a wildflower garden – it was beautiful! With time slowing down I’ve really heard birdsong, crickets and cicadas. Really watch the seasons slowly changing and documented with photos. I’ve binge watched funny series with the family. I’ve never been a binge watcher, but it’s nice to disappear for a while.

I would say the most helpful has been volunteering. For 6hrs, 3x a week I think about other people and how I can serve them. It’s scary being out in the wild; too much hand sanitizer, a string of ocd behaviors just to use the public bathroom, how do I eat ? is this mask good enough? I can run though a ton of reasons to stay home, but I still go and I still love it. 

Blake

Honestly, with this I’ve been wondering.. how DO I cope?? ha. Some days I’m successful. But some day’s I’m really not. Actually, I have a lot of conversations with my next-door neighbor over the fence about that! We confess our struggles, commiserate together, and express relief to hear we aren’t alone in that. On really bad days I keep looking over to see if she’s in the yard. 

I’ve been trying to focus on balance for myself to deal with the stresses of the pandemic. Amongst helping everyone else in my family cope and keep calm, happy and busy, it can be hard to separate out what I need from what everyone else needs. I find being alone recharging: sometimes it’s being outside for my own solo walk, or outside pulling weeds and shoveling dirt, or sitting in a peaceful place enjoying an uninterrupted moment, maybe reading a book. But I have learned that I have to carve these out, make time for them, make sure everyone else knows I need it. 

But then in finding balance, I find that those times connecting with others brings me joy and peace. That can be in the form of reading out loud to my child, doing craft projects together, or those moments we all drag ourselves out of the house for a good long hike on the many shady trails of Greensboro. I especially love the lake trails, and we spend time looking for animals, or interesting plants. Being aware of nature, and enacting all my senses to the world around me helps to bring me out of my head, and it gives us all an excuse to move around, have fun, and get tuckered out. I notice we all sleep better on those nights!

Bianca

Melissa, talking to the crows sounds a lot like me. 

For me, it’s been talking to crows and various other neighborhood critters, including spiders which is very much not like me. Thank God for animals. The dogs and my weird cat have been quite entertaining. 

Lots and lots and lots of podcasts: Armchair Expert, Criminal, Naked Genetics, The Bitter Southerner, Family Secrets and more. 

Experimental cooking. 

Hiking. Mushroom hunting.

Talking to myself a lot. 

It hasn’t been easy and for us extroverts, incredibly lonely at times. But, it’s been a practice to self-soothe, to be comfortable with the quiet, the pauses. 

Austin

I have found a lot of inspiration in volunteering. I have found safe ways to help my community and it energizes me and gives me perspective. 

Moving my body is a must. I run the same route everyday so I don’t have to think about where I am going and it frees me up to let my mind wonder and improves my mood (dramatically). Running isn’t for everyone, but movement is. Just move. 

I pay attention to the news but try to do it in mindful ways by checking in only at certain times of the day. 

I am in constant communication with my friends. I need my people!!!

I watch a lot of Queer Eye. 

Also, … I love Armchair Expert…

Simple Habits for Good Health

Many of us are doing what we can to lower our stress levels and keep our immune systems as strong as possible. I thought I’d share a few easy practices I incorporate into my routine to help me stay strong and healthy.

I like to use fresh herbs and spices in my cooking whenever possible. Some of my favorites are fresh ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, rosemary, parsley, and thyme. Use what you like, and have fun with it. Let thy food be thy medicine. Try to eat 90% non processed food.
I try to drink a cup of green tea every day, my favorite is matcha. Matcha has a naturally high content of L-theanine, which effects serotonin and dopamine, and has antidepressant properties. I always feel a noticeable mood boost after I drink it. Green tea promotes healthy gut bacteria which strengthens the immune system and contains a substance called egcg, which studies have shown has diverse antiviral effects. People who drink green tea regularly tend to have greater overall health and longer life spans.
Try to make some time for yourself periodically to do something you find relaxing and rejuvenating. For me that includes reading, listening to classical music, taking an epsom salt or essential oil bath, or going for nice walk out in nature. You have to take some time out just for yourself. Disconnect from the world (and your family!) for an hour when you can.

Finally, I like to remind myself what I am grateful for. Some thoughts are draining, and some are strengthening. Taking some time to acknowledge what we are grateful for has positive effects on our mind and body. Its usually the most simple techniques that yield the most powerful results. Try to focus on the things you have the power to influence. Worry and fear can be compulsive if not checked. Those emotions can certainly seem justified, but overindulgence in them can drain your energy. I try not to let anything separate me from my power to take action, and that includes paralyzing emotions. I don’t suppress them, I just try not to overindulge in them or let them control me.

by Jesse Andreas, L.Ac.

At the Speed of Yoga

 

This piece isn’t about the collective “we” of shared experience. It’s just about me, my practice right now- written this way because I’m pretty sure anything I’m experiencing in this unprecedented time is being experienced by many of you as well.

More than two decades into a regular yoga practice, surely I hit my mat every day and use my practice to stay fit and healthy, right? Ummm…

Sun salutations are good for expelling anxious energy. But many days I’m too lethargic to do those. Clinical Somatics and restorative poses are good for smoothing out the physical and emotional kinks. But many days I haven’t the focus for the minute, internal referencing. Standing poses are good for restoring balance and creating grounding. But many days I feel too unstable, or just. can’t. even.

So what is a faithful yogi to do? Just get on the mat. I lie on my back, knees bent, and aim first to bring a bit more stillness into the fidgety places- hands, eyes, feet. And sometimes that is the whole practice. Other times it leads to a gentle swaying of the knees, or stretching the legs out slowly, or resting hands on my lower belly and breathing into that space.

Once or twice in the last month, just getting on the mat has led to an “actual” pose or two. My practice has boiled down to just me getting friendly with my mat; saying hello to it every day for even a minute or two; acknowledging that the practice of yesterday is irrelevant to the practice today; and offering gratitude to my beloved mat for always being there to receive me.

Slow yoga, fast yoga, tears-in-your-ears yoga, looks-like-doing-nothing yoga. Whatever I choose is OK.

Living at the speed of yoga,

Melissa Peet, practice manager