This ancient treatment can relieve pain
You’ve probably heard of acupuncture and how millions of people around the world use it to manage pain and restore well-being. 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.
Acupressure can 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.
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, messages of pain can be blocked before they reach the brain and other messages can be sent to the brain telling it to release endorphins or chemicals that reduce pain and restore a sense of well-being.
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.
There are three points that can help relieve discomfort almost every person experiences: headaches, stomach aches, nausea and body pain.
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.
- Acupressure point to relieve headaches – Apply pressure to the muscular web between the thumb and index finger. Do not use this acupressure point if you are pregnant.
- Acupressure point to relieve stomach aches or nausea – Apply pressure slightly above the wrist joint (about 2 inches) on the palm side of the wrist and between the large tendons.
- Acupressure point to relieve body pain – Apply pressure 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 and monitor your overall physical posture to reduce unnecessary physical tension. Acupressure techniques can be refined and if you really want to get good at it, have a licensed acupuncturist instruct you. From there, you can continue on your own.
About the Author
Dr. John Burns DPT, MSOM, Dipl-Ac, CAc is the Acupuncture, Integrative Medicine Manager at Aurora Sinai Hospital in Milwaukee, Wis.