If you ever find yourself rubbing your hands when you’re anxious or achy, you're onto something that practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have know for centuries: Pressure point on the hands can be the gateway to feeling better.
By applying pressure to specific points on your fingers, hands, and wrists, you can alleviate a variety of symptoms, from headaches and back pain to nausea and anxiety, says acupuncturist Kim Peirano. Related to acupuncture (but without the needles!) acupressure involves pressing on points that lie along the body's energy channels, or meridians, to relieve muscle tension and release energy. “The hands and feet are the beginnings and ends of most of the channels,” Peirano explains. “There are also extra points that aren’t on the meridians that have very specific functions.”
Peirano explains that to get maximum relief, you need to to a little more than just a gentle pat—the pressure should actually feel uncomfortable. “If acupressure is done correctly, it should hurt a lot more than acupuncture, which is done with fine needles that we can place very precisely,” she explains. “You have to be really firm with the pressure.” She suggests pressing down and massaging in small circles for at least one minute, though not so hard that you bruise or injure yourself. “It should feel like a dull ache,” she explains.
While acupressure should never be used in place of medical treatment, several studies have shown that it may be effective in reducing pain and nausea. And the best thing about using hand pressure points, says Peirano, is that “it’s super easy, you don’t have to take off your shoes, and you can do while you're sitting at your desk at work.”
Here are some helpful spots to know:
Hand Pressure Point #1: Hegu for Headaches
Putting pressure on the Hegu point is especially effective at relieving headaches at the forehead or top of head, as well as toothaches and sinus pain, says Peirano. It's located in the fleshy web of your hand between the thumb and forefinger. Press together with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand for at least 1 minute, then switch hands.
Hand Pressure Point #2: Luo Zhen for Pain
Luo zhen, which translates to “falling down from pillow,” is one of Peirano’s favourite “extra points,” and can be useful when you wake up with a stiff neck. It’s located on the back of the hand; if you start at the web between the pointer and middle fingers, then move down toward the wrist, stopping just below the first bump of bone, you’ve found it.
Hand Pressure Point #3: Nei Guan for Nausea
Applying pressure to the Nei Guan spot may be helpful for banishing nausea from morning sickness, chemotherapy, or seasickness. “Hold your thumb against your inner forearm and measure two times the width of your thumb down from your wrist crease,” says Peirano. Once you find that spot, apply pressure between the two tendons.
Hand Pressure Point #4: Yao Tong Xue for Lower Back Pain
If you have cramps, or threw your back out doing a Zumba class, this is a good one to try, says Periano. Yao tong xue consists of two points, between the pointer and middle finger, and pink and ring finger on the back of the hand, "it’s halfway between wrist crease and knuckles, closer to the body," says Peirano.
Hand Pressure Point #5: Shaofu for Stress and Anxiety
Also known as the Heart 8 point, Shaofu can be found on your palm at the point where your pinkie touches your hand when you're making a loose fist, sats Peirano. Press down on that area when you need de-stress.
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