By Dr. Victor S. Sierpina

After last week’s column about tapping on your acupressure points to bring energy and balance to sports and other performance, I received an unusually large number of enthusiastic comments. So, I thought I’d follow up with a more general coverage of acupressure.

I also wanted to offer a clarification that some of my readers brought to my attention this week. Tapping is done bilaterally over the paired meridians on the face and body points except when the point is in the midline, above and below mouth, and on the sternum. The index and middle finger are used to tap firmly a half dozen times or more over each point. The diagram last week showed only one point per side on the face so I have brought a revised one this week, and also one of the hand points. Tapping can be done on either or both hand points less obtrusively. Again, if tapping isn’t your thing, you can apply pressure over the points while taking a deep breath or two for the same benefits. For those of you that missed the article, you can look back on the GDN website or get a detailed overview by getting a copy of Coach Greg Warburton’s easy to read paperback, Winning System from Amazon.

Which brings us to acupressure. This technique is practiced by pressing firmly over specific acupuncture points for a desired therapeutic effect. Pressure should be firm and enough to cause the nail bed to blanch. Pressure can be constant though is usually applied by pressing and generating a circular, rotating motion over the point.

The most well known and best-researched points are Large Intestine 4 (Meeting of the Valleys) and Master of the Heart 6 (Inner Frontier Gate). These are located respectively on the back of hand, between the thumb and index finger at the high point of muscle when you make a fist (LI4); MH 6 is roughly two or your thumb widths from the crease where your wrist bends and over or between the tendons there on the inside of your wrist.

LI 4 has long been used for pain relief in general and is best known for its use in headache. If you have a headache, simply press over the point firmly, circular motions, and continue for a minute or two. After doing it on one hand, do the same on the other. Acupressure at the temples, perhaps with some essential peppermint oil, is a favorite remedy for headaches.

MH 6 is used for conditions such as nausea, from almost any cause. For example, it can be activated by pressure on each wrist for a couple minutes as described above for nausea due to pregnancy, motion sickness, chemotherapy, and so on.

If you have stress related tension in your shoulders and neck, Gall Bladder 20 (Wind Pool) and GB 21 (Shoulder Well) are common points needing attention. GB 20 is found at the base of the skull behind the mastoid bone, behind your ears. Firmly press, following the course of the skull, and you will feel your fingers drop into a sort of depression, which is often tender. Firm acupressure here, or a good massage if you have a chance is helpful for neck and headaches. The top point of the trapezius muscle is GB 21. Just feel for it on your shoulder and you’ll realize this is a common tension point that always feels great if a touch buddy or massage therapist works on it. It is hard to do acupressure on GB 21 since you have to stretch the same muscles that are tense to reach it.

Here, a little device called the Theracane can be extremely useful. It is a flexible, hooked device about two feet long with various knobs on it. This helpful tool allows acupressure on points on the shoulders, back and hips that are hard to reach. It can also allow application of considerable pressure to these points and even bruising if you overdo it. It is particularly useful in chronic muscle pain like fibromyalgia, muscle spasms, chronic joint pain, and low back pain. Research has shown that acupressure massage over low back points has been shown to be more effective than plain massage.

Another interesting application is one Lindsay Wagner, the actress, has long taught: “acupressure face-lift.” This stimulates blood flow and elasticity in facial tissues and if you don’t want to go with Botox, collagen injections, or surgery for those wrinkles, see her book or YouTube for details.

So remember that applying a little pressure at the right spots can be a useful, inexpensive, and safe way to improve your health and reduce pain and other symptoms.