I was excited to write this article on acupressure for self-care, since acupressure’s historical context comes from a self-care perspective.
Acupressure has a long history of laypeople using this knowledge for managing their health and well-being.
Acupressure is also instinctive—we do it all the time, like holding our heads when we have a headache or points around our nose when we have sinus congestion. Touch is nurturing, a natural impulse and best of all, it’s with us all the time.
My own hands are with me all the time, so you can often find me holding points in the car, while teaching or after a long day of sessions. My favorite time for self-acupressure is before I fall asleep.
Read on for more about the effectiveness self-acupressure has given me—and can give you, too.
Discover Your Acu-Points
Self-acupressure is easily accessible; your acu-points are easy to find, since you will experience a distinct “Ahh, that’s it” sensation when you find the right spot. Acupressure has few contraindications; however, you should avoid pressing points on open wounds, infectious rashes and varicose veins. (There are also labor points, or forbidden points to avoid during pregnancy, but none are shown in this article.)
Our points, like our hands, are with us all the time, so you can use them anyplace, anytime. I encourage you to use your points in ways that are easy, accessible and comfortable.
Here are some of my tips for making self-acupressure simple and effective.
• Let your body and your points be your guide. Don’t get hung up on exact point locations. If you can’t find that sensation I described above, then simply massage around the point area. You could even try, as you massage, to narrow in on a particular spot over time.
• When you find your spot, you don’t need much pressure. What you want to focus on is the angle. To experiment with this, when you get to the spot or point, try pivoting your finger a little to the right, left, up or down to achieve your optimal sensation. You will discover that you need very little pressure when you find your optimal angle.
I have also found that a relaxed hand and finger, with open or curved joints, can give far more pressure. Think about the concept of dead weight in your arms; acupressure should feel that easy. If it’s difficult to get relaxed enough, use a tool to hold the point, apply an essential oil on the point area or just palm the point.
• Find time for you. You don’t need a lot of time to practice self-acupressure—just five minutes or so can be very effective. Notice where you might be able to fit some self-acupressure easily into your day: before you get out of bed, washing up, sitting in your car, between client sessions, having a cup of tea, or at the beginning or end of your day before you go to bed.
Do whatever works best for you. You can even set your phone to remind you. You deserve at least five minutes of your own healing touch.
Self-Acupressure Points to Try
The following three points are what I like to call helper points, otherwise known as distal points. These are points, generally away from an area of discomfort, that have an energetic or qi connection to assist with relief.
You can use these helper points on their own if that’s easier, but they are more pleasurable and effective to use while you also massage, hold or rub an area of discomfort for that energetic connection and movement of qi.
1. Outer Wrist: Triple Warmer Luo/Connecting Point (TW5). This point can be found in the center of the outer arm, between the ulna and radius bones and two inches above the wrist. (Hint: angle toward your fingers.) This technique helps ease neck and shoulder tension. The energetic connections to the neck are to the trapezius and posterior sternocleidomastoid muscles, and the levator scapula muscle in the shoulders.
This point has a very strong energetic connection, which means it has a strong, wide-ranging effect. Another energetic connection this point has is to Wei qi, or our protective qi, which helps protect us or respond more easily to our environment. This point can also help relieve tension in your forearms and hands from doing bodywork all day.
2. Outer Ankle: Suspended Bell (GB39). You can find this point by measuring a hand above the outer ankle, at the level of the fibula. (Hint: Pivot your finger to rest on the posterior border of the fibula.) If this point is hard to reach, use a tool.
This technique helps relax neck and head tension, and can also relieve discomfort in the hip, leg, ankle and foot. It may be helpful in relieving some sciatic discomfort. This point is said to be the “influential point” for the bones, so try it when you have stiffness. Try holding this point while massaging your neck or hip.
3. Hug Yourself: Grand Luo/Connecting Point (SP21). Find this point along the mid-axillary line, in the 7th intercostal space, or where your fingers go when you hug yourself. This point may help with whole-body pain or weakness in the limbs. I include it because it’s a wonderful way to give yourself appreciation and love.
Other Things to Remember
Take care of your hands! This is always my primary concern. Find a way for your hands to be comfortable as you’re finding or holding points. Try resting your finger on knots or bones near the point location, grasping your leg or arm for leverage, using more than one finger or switching fingers.
Remember to experiment with angling the point. If none of that helps or works, use a tool or find your own ingenious ways to use these points. Holding these acu-points can often relieve pain and discomfort, as well as provide deep relaxation, but do keep in mind that they can also balance our energy or qi to help improve our overall well-being.
Be Good to Yourself
Self-care is most beneficial as a daily practice, like an affirmation to ourselves. It’s easy in this profession of caring for others to put ourselves in the background. I ask that you find a way to bring yourself a bit more to the foreground.
Don’t wait until you’re in crisis before you try this out. Treat yourself with your own hands via self-acupressure a little each day, just as you treat others. Experience for yourself the joy and comfort you give. Have fun, and enjoy and appreciate your touch.
About the Author:
Cheri Haines, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM)®, AOBTA®-CI, LBT, has practiced Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT) in Madison, Wisconsin, for over 25 years and has taught for over 15 years. She has received the top accolades in her profession: Dipl.ABT(NCCAOM)®, AOBTA®- CI, and is a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork Approved Provider and an authorized Jin Shin Do® senior instructor.