Relief at Your Fingertips Press on your hand and relieve a headache? Touch between your eyes and reduce anxiety? Sounds like a game you might play with children, but in fact it is part of the Chinese medicine practice of acupressure. Research studies have centered on the health benefits of acupuncture, in which fine needles are inserted into "acupoints" -- specific places along the body's energy pathways called meridians. Chinese medicine teaches that within meridians, energy can get blocked, becomes too low or too high, which can cause pain or discomfort in other -- but related -- places in the body. Acupressure, which actually predates acupuncture, uses pressure rather than needles on these acupoints. By applying pressure at the correlated point, it relieves the energy block and restores a normal energy flow and gets rid of the pain or discomfort. Acupuncture requires a well-trained professional. The great thing about acupressure is that, depending on the ailment, you can actually help yourself. This isn't to say that acupressure is to be taken lightly. Acupressure is sophisticated and requires extensive training, but there are a few simple strategies that anyone, with proper instruction, can use to address some common discomforts in themselves or others. For information on how people can use this technique, I spoke with naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist Joan-Ellen Macredis, ND, LAc, MAc, who also uses acupressure in her practice in Stamford, Connecticut. There are some differences in how various practitioners teach self-strategies, but Dr. Macredis told me that the following general guidelines are what she has found to be best...
To apply pressure to a point, use your thumb and press straight down to the stage of mild discomfort but not pain. Less is often more in this case, she says. Some people find that rubbing clockwise on the point works well for them, but she prefers to start people with finger pressure and if results are good, stay with it.
Hold pressure for 10 seconds, release and reapply for sessions of up to five minutes. Pressing longer than five minutes per session can create light-headedness, she cautions.
Never press in and out -- this can aggravate pain or create a general feeling of malaise, says Dr. Macredis.
Start with just one session a day. You may not feel results until the next day and should too much energy be released, it may end up increasing discomfort. If that happens, adjust by shortening the amount of time you apply pressure or decrease pressure. Conversely, if you want more stimulation, add one or at most two five-minute sessions per day.
Drink a full glass of water before or after you start and avoid practicing when you are hungry. Wait 20 minutes after eating, bathing or exercising. TOP ACUPOINTS With this in mind, following are the areas where energy commonly gets stuck, says Dr. Macredis...
Hand point. This addresses any kind of problem in the area of the head including headaches, sinus pain, colds, etc. Close the space between your thumb and index finger to make a mound appear. Go to the top of the mound at the juncture between the thumb and index finger and press with your thumb. Try clockwise rotation rubbing if pressure alone doesn't work.
Toe point. This is good for relieving muscular or skeletal pain, PMS, headaches or general irritability. Find the space where the first and second toes meet. Your finger will fall into a groove. It will feel as if your thumb has fallen into a small hole, she says, and is the correct point to apply pressure. To obtain greater relief, Dr. Macredis advises a pressure session for both the hand site and the toe site. Start with pressure on the same-side body points. If you want more relief, switch to doing it on opposite hand and foot sides instead. However, never apply pressure at all four points, in other words, don't apply on both hands and both feet. That would release too much energy in general, she says.
Wrist point. Try this for nausea. Bend the inside of your hand toward you to form a crease at the wrist. Move your thumb the width of two thumbs toward the body and press.
Shin point. This is the place where you can ease indigestion woes. Locate the shin bone (tibia) just below the knee cap. Place your thumb at the highest point and measure one thumb width to the outside of the bone, the right of the tibia, and slide your finger down the bone to locate any sensitive area to touch. This is your pressure point.
Ankle point. If toe point pressure doesn't relieve menstrual cramps sufficiently, add this. Find the indentation on your inside leg between the ankle bone and the Achilles tendon. Go up about three thumb widths above the anklebone and apply pressure.
The third eye point. This point is called the Yintang point and provides a handy way to soothe a headache or sinus pain, to calm a bad mood or anxiety and it serves as a general pick-me-up. Find the middle point between your eyebrows and press with your middle finger. Do not apply pressure for more than 30 to 60 seconds and do this only one time. There are many more points and many other problems acupressure can address including more specific digestive issues. More than this, though, requires hands that are properly trained in the art of energy release. From the energetic to the purely physiological, there is much to be gained from a little pressure.