Acupressure…Get the Point?

Acupressure…Get the Point?

     How does acupressure work?

You have a very powerful tool at your fingertips that can relieve your headaches in less than a minute. Acupressure and acupuncture points are the same. Acupuncture  can work well to relieve headaches, but you can’t do acupuncture on yourself. You can learn to use acupressure, however.

My clients find it astonishing when I push a point on their lower arm or leg and their headache melts away.  My clients like this treatment as it is drug-free and can be used at any time or any place. Acupressure works fast. You may suffer from nausea that goes along with your headaches. A point in the forearm will start to relieve nausea within a minute.

I read through people’s migraine stories, and the struggle they go through to find the best medication. They then need to calibrate the dosages to get relief, which is not the easiest thing to do.   I constantly am thinking, “If they only knew that their answer may lie in their ability to find and put pressure on a spot on their body.  In just 30-60 seconds later, their sharp headache pain could have faded away!” These acupressure points are so seemingly random, that I’ll run through several of them with you.

     LI-4 acupressure point relieves frontal headaches

A common point that many people know about is the point in between the web space of the thumb and forefinger.  This point is very helpful if you have a pain in the area of the eye, or frontal and side part of the head.   However, sometimes people tell me, “I’ve heard of this point. I used my thumb on the point and nothing happened.”

People don’t realize that this point is tucked away between two of the finger bones and a thumb will simply cover the top of the point without reaching it. Their thumbs are too wide.  When they use one of their fingers, instead of their thumbs, they do indeed get the immediate relief they are looking for.  At other times, people have tried to use the palmar side of the hand to relieve their headaches, when they need to be on the back of the hand. The point is nestled in between the bones of the first and second finger.

This acupoint, LI-4 according to the Chinese naming system, is one of the more common points for headache relief.  If you are looking up the point, realize that the full name of the point is “Large Intestine 4.” People are oftentimes puzzled about the naming of the acupressure points.  “Does this point affect my large intestine?”  Well, maybe, but maybe not.

The Chinese points are connected by a hypothetical string of points that pass through the organ they are named for.  For the purposes of relieving your headache, you won’t need to know all of those connecting points.  However, the point has been named Large Intestine 4 for 4,000 years, so there is no point to changing it after all that time.

      Try the Yin Tang Acupoint

Another common point is Yin Tang, at the top of the bridge of the nose, between the eyebrows.  Use your thumb to apply pressure to this point, because unlike the LI-4 point, the Yin Tang point is not concealed inside the indentation of two bones.  The entire front and side of the head may feel a sudden release with thumb pressure on this point. If you need more head stability, place your elbow on a table and lean into the point with your thumb.

     What point can I use to help my Nausea?

You may suffer from nausea that goes along with your headaches.  Yes, there is a great point for nausea, too.  In fact, since nausea is a warning sign for many people prior to their headache, and when they learn how to shut down the nausea prior to the headache coming on, they can short circuit the headache episode before it takes off.

The anti-nausea point, Pericardium 6, is right in the center of the palmar side of the forearm just 3-4 inches above the wrist crease, depending how long your forearm is.  Use the flat surface of the thumb to seek it out.  Once you are on target you will feel a definite sharp spot.  If you have no sharp spot, you haven’t found it yet. Once you’ve got it, the nausea should fade away in no more than a minute. If your nausea is coming from the flu, for instance, the point won’t work. For migraine-associated nausea, the Pericardium 6 point usually works quite well.

     Acupressure / acupuncture results

It is important to be exactly on target when pressing these points to get the benefit of headache or nausea reduction.  All points do not work equally well for each headache.  LI-4 is a common point that works very well for the front, but not the back, of the head.  I will introduce you to other points that are not as well known, but which I have learned of since I started using acupressure over thirty years ago.

A middle-aged woman I treated became stressed out during business meetings which could bring her headache up to 7-8/10.  She pressed a point between her fourth and fifth toes (Gall Bladder 41 in the Chinese labeling system) to calm the headache down to 2-3/10. Instead of lasting several days, the headache passed her by in a matter of hours. She had an ongoing headache condition for many years and would have never known that she could have simply rubbed her foot during the meetings to stop her headache from ramping up. Other acupressure points did not work for her, but the foot point was a major help.

Countless other examples abound.  I became fascinated with acupressure points  after I watched a movie in physical therapy school about acupuncture. One poignant scene showed a woman who was undergoing brain surgery in China with no anesthesia other than the acupuncture she received.  She remained awake during the procedure, looking somewhat apprehensive as the brain surgery progressed (wouldn’t you?), but in no obvious physical distress.   We will hopefully not be using the points to help you with any event this intense. However, you may find these acupressure points a very powerful tool for your headache relief toolbox.

      Why does acupressure and acupuncture work?

Acupressure is not magic.  Some people do not respond well to acupressure.  I read in a book by Dr. George Ulett, “Beyond Yin and Yang; How Acupuncture Really Works,” that some people don’t have the nerve receptors in the brain that would allow them to have relief with this technique.  If you decide to give acupressure a fair trial you may need to see an acupuncturist, physical therapist or other health professional to help you find the points.

You need to realize that it takes time and experience to become familiar with acupressure. Do not become frustrated as you learn this new technique from an ancient time. If you are diligent, however, you will find using the acupressure points becomes second nature to you. You may be able to short circuit the headache reaction before it takes off.

There is a caveat, however.  If you use the acupressure points exclusively and frequently, their effectiveness may start to dim. For instance, an asthma sufferer who uses his inhaler multiple times a day will need to use larger and larger doses to get the same benefit.  That fact, however, doesn’t mean the inhaler should not be used as needed.  Also, rotating points may be useful to you. You need to include muscle techniques into your treatment plan. There are about 15 points that I use as my “go to” points depending on where the headache is located.  We’ll look at a few more in a future blog.



-You understand that if not done properly, some techniques and exercises described in this blog could harm you. Any activities you perform are at your own risk, and you expressly agree to waive any claims against the author for any harm that may arise from your own actions. By reading this blog and conducting these exercises, you accept this risk. This blog provides content related to physical and/or mental health issues. As such, your use of techniques described acts as your acceptance of this disclaimer. Consult Chapter 2 in my book, “Calming the Headache Storm” to make sure the headache is not the sign of a more serious problem. The techniques, advice and strategies contained in this blog may not be suitable for every individual and should be abandoned if your headache increases. Seek the advice of your physician.



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