Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner Dr Abbie Cloherty explains the physical and mental benefits of acupressure and how you can try it yourself at home.
Isolation might be coming to an end for most of us, but thanks to the fear of a second wave, the unease sparked by ‘return-anxiety’ and the pressures that come with working from home, it’s not surprising that many of us are still feeling stressed.
And while activities like #isobaking and mindful gardening might be helping nix those anxious feels, if you’re finding it hard to keep calm, having trouble sleeping thanks to wild dreams or wanting to give your immune system a boost, it might be time to try a little acupressure.
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What is acupressure?
According to Dr Abbie Cloherty, principal practitioner at the Zhong Centre, acupressure comes from a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine called “tui na,” which translates to medical massage.
“Sometimes acupressure can be different types of pressure, like finger needling, pinching, rubbing with your palm, rolling with a lot of pressure and light brushing,” Dr Cloherty explains. “There are lots of different ways to massage, but it usually comes down to if it hurts, push it harder. When you’re stimulating a point, you need to do it long enough that you feel a buzz in the area.”
Much like acupuncture, which uses fine needles instead of hands, acupressure works by stimulating certain points on your body. “The Chinese Medicine philosophy is to encourage the body to rebalance itself to a state of homeostasis, and acupressure is way to achieve this,” says Dr Cloherty
“When you’re manipulating qi [energy], you’re manipulating meridians and specific pathways in order to encourage a response between your organs,” she continues. “So, it’s not necessarily a direct organ response, it’s the relationship between them. For example, if we’re talking about anxiety, we’d look at the relationship between the kidney and the heart.”
Keen to try acupressure for yourself? Read on for Dr Cloherty’s guide.
How to practise acupressure at home
All of the points below can be stimulated by applying pressure with your fingers and moving in mini circular movements for about 100 rotations. “You need to do it long enough that you feel a buzz or an aura in the area so you know the point is stimulated,” tips Cloherty.
Good for: Anxiety
Where to find it: On your sternum, between your nipples.
“For heart palpitations or a little bit of a panic attack, a really good point is called Ren 17. It’s found on the sternum between your two nipples,” explains Cloherty. “It can be quite sensitive to push – if it’s not tender, it’s usually a finger length up or a finger length down. It’s really beneficial for opening the lungs or the chest centre.
“If you’re having a panic attack, it’s usually because you’re trying to keep shit together or fearing the unknown, so this is a peaceful way of letting that go so you can breathe. When you’re stressed, you shallow breathe and go into fight- or-flight mode, which results in more cortisol being released, but the more you breathe, the more you interrupt these cortisol pathways. It’s a great way to settle the heart.”
Good for: Headaches and work overload
Where to find it: Just below where your big toe and second toe meet.
“This one is great for headaches, if you feel like you’ve got a helmet over your head and if you’ve been sitting all day long and you’re really frustrated. It’s also good for PMS or if you’re over corona,” Dr Cloherty explains.
“It moves all the liver system energy, so it moves frustration and aggressive sensations. To stimulate this point, you can get a stick and poke it – I like place my thumb underneath and forefinger on top and pinch it. You can also activate it with a really hot foot bath, which is great for restlessness and anxiety and poor sleep because you take all the energy and heat out of your head and drain it out of your feet.”
Good for: Tired eyes, headaches, fatigue and low immunity
Where to find it: A thumb width back from your earlobe at the back of your head. Use both thumbs to activate both sides, as if you’re cradling your head.
“Gallbladder 20 is great for headaches or if your eyes are getting fatigued from screens,” notes Dr Cloherty. “Feel back from where your ear starts and move across until you get to the first rise – it’s basically your own thumb width back from your ear lobe to the back of your head and when you push it, it goes a bit achy. Close your eyes, stimulate the point firmly, then open your eyes and your eyes will feel bigger and brighter.
“We use this point for headaches and migraines, blurriness and fatigue, it’s great for regulating blood pressure and it’s great to boost the immune system from any incoming coughs, colds, flus or wind.”
Good for: Boosting immunity
Where to find it: Two fingers past your thumb, below your wrist.
“In Chinese medicine, the lung is in charge of the barrier between you and the outside world. To find this lung point, look at your arm, spread your fingers and you’ll see a ligament pop up,” Cloherty explains. “Just press the dip of that ligament or pinch it. It can get red quite quickly, but it’s good for congestion, wheezing, coughing, asthma, and hay fever. You can pinch all the way up to your elbow, and that will get the whole lung channel activated and start to clear nasal pathways and your chest. It’s a really nice one. You can also use it to help regulate your hormones, if your neck gets sore or your head gets foggy.
What it’s good for: A good night’s sleep
Where to find it: The dip on the inner side of your ankle bone, next to the Achilles tendon.
“This point works on fear, and when you can’t fall asleep, it’s usually because of fear,” says Dr Cloherty. “If you pinch between the bone where the Achilles is, there’s a gap and you stimulate in there. This is good if you haven’t been able to sleep for a long time, and it’s perfect for when you’re so tired you can’t sleep. It’s also a good point for things going on with your ears, anxiety and stress.”