You’ve probably heard of acupuncture and how millions of people around the world use it to manage pain and restore wellbeing. But have you heard of acupressure? Instead of using tiny sterile needles, acupressure is done using fingers, palms, or elbows on key points of the body to get similar results as acupuncture.
A big advantage of acupressure is that you can learn to do it on yourself. It’s great for people who don’t have access to a certified acupuncturist or who are too busy to make an appointment with one.
Read below to learn more about acupressure, how it works, what it’s good for, and three acupressure points you can try to relieve headaches, stomach aches or nausea, and body pain.
Acupressure is a form of massage that can be used for self-administered therapy to address a variety of health conditions such as sciatica leg pain, TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction in the jaw), labor pain, or nausea from chemotherapy. It’s rooted in traditional Chinese medicine and has been around for over 2,000 years.
It involves using fingers, palms, or elbows to place physical pressure on classic acupuncture points found throughout the body.
Acupressure points are located next to the largest nerve fiber pathways in your body that carry messages from nerve endings through your central nervous system. When they’re pressed the right way, two things can happen:
The best way to think about acupressure for self-care is to understand it’s not an on-off switch that makes pain or discomfort go away immediately. Instead it’s more like the opening and closing of gates.
Applying acupressure to certain points on the body can close off or block nerve impulses that transmit pain to the brain. Simultaneously, it can open up communication to the brain telling it to release pain-reducing chemicals into the bloodstream. Together, this opening and closing combination can allow a sense of wellbeing to flow through you.
There are experts who know acupressure points that work on a wide variety of problems. But there are three points that can help relieve pain almost every person experiences: headaches, stomach aches or nausea, and body pain.
(Note: If you’re pregnant acupressure can cause uterine contractions and therefore certain acupressure points need to be avoided. The points that should be avoided by pregnant women are labeled below.)
Find the point described below and simply apply your finger or thumb to the most sensitive area you can find. Press hard but keep it tolerable, and hold it for 2-3 minutes.
|LI 4: Relieves headaches. Find this point on either hand in the muscular web between the thumb and index finger. Do not use this acupressure point if you are pregnant.|
|PC 6: Relieves stomach aches or nausea. This point can be found slightly above the wrist joint (about 2 inches) on the palm side of the wrist and between the large tendons.|
|LV 3: Relieves body pain. This point is located on the top of each foot in the web between the big toe and second toe.|
While you do this, use deep breathing to facilitate muscle relaxation. Monitor your overall physical posture to reduce unnecessary physical tension. If you need tips to help yourself relax.
Acupressure techniques can be refined and if you really want to get good at it, have a certified acupressure or acupuncture therapist show you the way it’s done. From there, you can continue on your own.