Acupuncture can treat a surprisingly wide range of conditions. Headaches, breathing problems, weak eyesight, and a whole host of other things can all be treated with needles. One thing that stops most people from trying it though is that we usually don’t seem to have an acupuncture specialist on hand when we need them. If only we could carry around the needles and administer them ourselves, just without having to undergo years of training beforehand.
Enter acupressure – acupuncture’s more accessible, less intimidating cousin. Acupressure is based on the same understanding of qi flow as acupuncture, but uses your hands instead of needles. Since there aren’t needles to worry about, acupressure is less precise, and makes a great tool for self-care.
If you have a stuffy nose, headaches, insomnia, or fatigue, slip these weapons in your back pocket. Here are five basic acupressure treatments that everyone should know.
1. Stuffy Nose
Points: B2, LI20, ST3
If you have a stuffy nose, acupressure is one solution that can provide some of the most immediate relief (I learned this firsthand when I was trying out all sorts of traditional Chinese medicine on my uber-congested sinuses). To stimulate and open up your upper sinuses near your forehead, use the B2 point. You’ll find it right where the bridge of your nose connects with your upper eye socket, on the underside of your “eyebrow bone.”
For the lower sinuses closer to your nostrils, you can use the points LI20 and St3, located on either side of your nostrils, with St3 being a little further out and down. You’ll know you’re in the right area if you feel a kind of sensitivity or indentation in any of these spots. Take a finger or knuckle and press in firmly on the point while taking deep breaths, and hold it for about 45 seconds to a minute. You might be surprised at how quickly you can feel changes occurring, as the sinuses start to open up from the stimulation.
Congestion occurs when the sinuses can’t drain mucus properly. Applying pressure to certain parts of the face is an easy way to stimulate flow in the sinuses, helping them return to a healthy state.
Points: GB20, GV24.5, GB7
Next time you get a headache, try out these three points. A lot of people will naturally start to rub their head when they get a headache – it’s because that stimulation can get your body circulating better, and relieve the pain and pressure from those headaches.
GB20 is located on the back of the skull, on the underside of the right and left creases where your skull starts to connect to your neck (marked on the diagram below, in the next section). You can interlace your fingers and wrap your hands around the back of your head, then use your thumbs to gently massage the two points. If you’re feeling straight bone then keep looking – like all acupoints, you’ll know you’re there when you feel a kind of sensitivity or gentle ache from the pressure.
GV24.5 is also called the Third Eye Point, located right in between your eyes at the top of the bridge of your nose. Just like with the B2 point we talked about for nasal congestion, pressure here can open up the flow at the front of your face, and get you a step closer to killing your headache (actually, since sinus pressure and headaches are often linked, give all those nasal points a shot for your headaches as well).
GB7 is the bomb. In this picture, it’s the rightmost point by the upper tip of the ear. But the other four points curling back constitute the Temple Region points, and can all be effective for dispelling headaches. Spend some time working these points, and bask in the sweet relief.
3. A Good Night’s Sleep
Points: B38, P6, Anmian
Insomnia sucks, and some studies put its American victims at over 50% of the country. Here are some points to get you drifting on those REM waves.
B38 is considered one of the most important pressure points when it comes to sleep, located on either side of the back at heart level, between the shoulder blade and spine.
To activate it, try lying face up on a hard surface with a tennis ball under each point. Relax your muscles and breathe deeply for at least a minute.
P6 is located on the forearm, about two and a half finger widths down from the crease of the wrist. The point is good for relaxation and for reducing anxiety. Do one wrist, then switch to the next.
P6 acupuncture point
Anmian is an “extra point”, not lying along any meridian line. The name means peaceful sleep, so you’d better believe we’re putting it in here. Start with your thumbs on the GB20 point from above, then move out slowly towards your ears until you feel another indentation behind your earlobe. The anmian point is right between these two. The other points we’ve talked about so far generally call for stimulation of about a minute, but you can apply gentle pressure to anmian for as long as 15-20 minutes, until sleep is within your grasp.
If you find yourself falling asleep at the wheel or in class, try out GV26.
GV26 is on the centerline of the face just below the nose, about one third of the way down to the upper lip. Pressing in on it can engage the body’s sympathetic nervous system, in charge of the fight-or-flight response. It also increases corticol-cerebral blood flow to the brain, bringing in more oxygen and awareness.
Acupressure isn’t a miracle cure. Like all Chinese medicine, it’s more of a practice than an acute solution, and you’ll need to do any of these exercises several times, if not several times a day, if you want results. But since all you need to get these exercises going are your thumbs, acupressure is tough to beat when it comes to convenience. So file these points away into your memory bank, to help you squeeze the right responses out of your body when you need them.