How to stimulate pressure points to relieve anxiety

We’ve all been there: a gentle nudge and classic puppy-dog eye plea whilst proffering a foot in your partner’s direction. We do this in the hopes that our partner will soothe our aching muscles, tense shoulders and busy minds. And the power of massage can do just that. But whilst our efforts with our other halves may not be fruitful, there is one practice you can do yourself to reap the benefits of massage.

Known to focus on certain points in the body to promote self-healing, acupressure is a specific massage technique that can reduce pain, release emotional distress and aid toxin expulsion to contribute to whole-body health.

Acupressure practitioners believe that illness occurs when the body’s ‘qi’ – natural energy – becomes unbalanced or blocked, and disease and negativity can thus settle in the body. To restore equilibrium, acupressure can be practised by putting pressure on certain points ‘acupoints’ around the body to clear meridians (energy pathways). 

Alongside clearing meridians, the gentle pressure and circular motion of acupressure – known as ‘acupuncture without the needles’, helps to ease muscle tension and promote blood flow, contributing to optimum physical health. The ancient practice can also be particularly helpful for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression due to its energy balancing properties and calming nature. 

Acupressure for anxiety 

Stimulating specific pressure points in the body through self-massage is thought to help ease anxiety in the moment. So whether it’s at work, on public transport, in the supermarket or at home, acupressure can help calm your breathing, still your mind and bring back a sense of control.

Whilst more research needs to be conducted to determine the effectiveness of acupressure for anxiety, early research does support it, and Chinese medicine has practised this holistic treatment for centuries. 

Of course, depending on the anxiety you struggle with, certain pressure points may ease anxiety more than others and a trained practitioner will be able to administer the therapy most effectively, but let’s look at six pressure points in the body that you can try at home, that could provide some relief from anxiety.

6 pressure points to relieve anxiety 

1. Hegu 

Located between your thumb and forefinger, open your hand and find the ‘webbed’ area. Close your thumb and forefinger (from the other hand) together around the webbed section, and slide down slightly so you reach the base of the thumb. Hegu is thought to release endorphins that dull pain and contribute to reduced anxiety levels.

Apply firm pressure in a circular motion for approximately five minutes and repeat on the opposite hand.

2. Taiyuan

Helpful for calming the physical symptoms of anxiety such as heart palpitations and chest pain, Taiyuan can be located at the very edge of the wrist, the side closest to the thumb. 

Turn your hand so the palm is facing upwards and look for a slight indent at the edge of the wrist, directly below the thumb. Apply gentle pressure, and massage for approximately one minute.

It’s important to note that acupressure should only be practised when your physical symptoms have been diagnosed as anxiety. If symptoms persist leading to nausea, shortness of breath and dizziness, seek medical assistance immediately. 

3. Lao Gong

When you make a fist, see where your ring finger lands in the palm of your hand, this spot is called Lao Gong. When Lao Gong is stimulated through gentle massage and coupled with mindful breathing, it can be helpful in easing anxiety and any trauma-related distress.  Apply moderate pressure and massage for two to three minutes, focusing your attention solely on this point.

4. Shou San Li

In acupressure, it is thought that Shou San Li affects the energy flow to the large intestine, so symptoms such as nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting can be eased through stimulation of this acupoint.

To find Shou San Li, bend your arm across your body, palm facing upwards. Find the elbow crease, and move your thumb two fingers’ width down the arm, palpate the area until you find the most tender point and massage with medium pressure for approximately three minutes. 

5. Yin Tang

Located between the centre of the eyebrows, the Yin Tang point is known to help with feelings of agitation and restlessness. This acupoint is considered to be where your third eye is located which in Hinduism is thought to improve mental clarity. Apply gentle pressure and massage this area no longer than five minutes.

Whilst more research is needed for chronic anxiety, a 2018 review did suggest that Yin Tang acupuncture or acupressure helped reduce acute anxiety in people who were about to undergo surgery.

6. An Mian

If anxious thoughts keep you awake at night, stimulating An Mian whilst in bed can help quieten the mind in preparation for a restful sleep. 

The two points of An Mian are located on either side of the neck, behind the ears: place your forefingers behind each earlobe and move your fingers backwards, just past the bony bump behind your ears and apply light pressure for two to three minutes.

If you think acupressure may help you and are looking to get in touch with a verified acupressurist, use the advanced search tool to find a practitioner. Browse through profiles and simply click ‘message me’ when you find a healer that resonates with you.

This article was last updated on 22/12/22

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Written by Katie Hoare
Katie is a writer for Therapy Directory.
Written by Katie Hoare
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