If you’ve ever enjoyed a Shiatsu or Tui Na massage, you’ve experienced acupressure—a 5,000-year-old healing technique that originated in Asia and which has long been an important component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Using the classic meridian channels of TCM, which are also the basis for acupuncture, acupressure is a needles-free method of applying fingertip pressure and massage to stimulate specific energy points throughout the body.
As in acupuncture, practitioners identify areas of blocked energy that may have led to pain or other imbalances and work to clear energy channels by removing blockage and barriers, thereby restoring balance and flow between the body’s yin, or negative energy, and its yang, or positive energy.
Many of the energy points that relate to common complaints, including headache, sinus pressure, stress and anxiety, are located on the face and head. Not sure you can locate them? The most reliable method is to use facial landmarks such as the eyebrows, nose, mouth and hairline, says David A. Berv, president and director of Back In Action Health Resource Center in Richmond, Va., and certified chiropractic sports physician and diplomate in acupuncture with the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture.
“In using acupressure on the head and scalp, simply exploring for tender points is useful,” explains Berv. “Tender points always have clinical relevance and will be of therapeutic value if they are stimulated through the pressure of fingers.”
When it comes to particular conditions, Berv offers the following guidelines for self-administering acupressure at specific TCM points:
Sinus pain and pressure
Locate the facial point known as Bi Tong by sliding your finger along the outside of the nose, starting at the nostrils and leading to where the softer, cartilage part of the nose becomes solid bone, about one-third of the way up the outer part of the nose. Exert pressure toward the face (don’t squeeze the nose) using the thumb and index finger of one hand, or using both index fingers. Press for about 20 seconds, repeating six to eight times.
About one-half inch below this point, where the outer portion of the nostril meets the face, is an excellent point for pain. “It happens to be the end point of the large intestine channel,” says Berv. “Because both this pain point and the sinus point are so close to each other, it makes sense to stimulate them both at the same.” Press for an additional 20 seconds, again repeating six to eight times.
Stress and anxiety
Locate the point called Yin Tang, located on the forehead just above the nose and exactly between the eyebrows. This point, known as the “third eye,” is a very powerful spiritual point and has a calming, focusing effect. A lighter touch or a light tapping motion can be used, and this point can be stimulated for a longer period of time—allowing you to close your eyes and meditate for a minute or two, enhancing stress relief.
For headache, Berv suggests targeting a specific region of the ears. “There are many beneficial points on the ears within a small amount of real estate,” he notes. Place your thumb on the bottom part of your ear, and then use your index finger to pinch all around the cartilage portion of the lower ear—both on the regions where the ear connects to the face and where the ear connects to the softer lobe portion. Pinch about 20 times. This will stimulate points related to the forehead, back of the skull, neck and general muscle-relaxing points. Next, place your thumb directly in the center of your ear, just above the hollow ear canal, and press inward with a medium pressure. Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat six to eight times (the ear may become tender at this point). This region of the ear not only assists with headache relief, explains Berv, but helps to regulate many of the body’s functions.
“The point called Bai Hui, located at the very top and center of the head/scalp is a great choice for headache, stress and anxiety, and—to a lesser degree—sinus,” says Berv. To locate this point, find a small indentation on the top and center of the scalp (often tender to the touch). Use a finger to press down with a medium pressure for 20 seconds. Release and repeat six to eight times. It’s at this point that four important energy channels meet. Stimulating it has a magnified impact on the dynamics of multiple body systems and energies.