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A student in a class recently asked about acupressure points to address dry eyes.  While factors such as diet, stress, and other health issues can cause or exacerbate dry eye, there are some points–directly around the eye–that may be helpful.

Before you start, wash your hands well with soap.  Then sit in a comfortable chair, with your feet flat on the floor.  Experiment with using your right hand or left hand, or both; whichever is comfortable for you.  Also, whether it is the right or left eye which is dry, try the acupressure on both eyes.

When you hold the points–which I will describe shortly–use your index finger or middle finger, and gently place it on the point.  There is no need to apply pressure; simply placing a finger in a relaxed manner will be effective.  Take a deep breath, as you hold each point. 

The points. There are three points, which are around the eye, as you see in the image.  They are the same on each eye.(My drawing–which I hope conveys the basic concept of the eye to you!–is of the left eye, as you look toward it.)  I’ve included the meridian point name, as well as the names translated from Chinese; some are more poetic than others.

  • Bladder 1 (Eyes Bright): This point is on the inside corner of the eye, where it meets your nose.
  • Stomach 1 (Tear Container): Directly below your pupil, this point is on the ridge of the bone around the eye.
  • Gallbladder 1 (Pupil Bone Hole): On the outside corner of the eye socket.

A recommended routine for these three points is to start by placing a fingertip on the Bladder 1 point.  Take five (5) deep breaths as you hold your finger there.  Remember to keep your shoulder and arm relaxed as you do this.  Next move your finger to the Stomach 1 point, and hold for five deep breaths.  Finally, move to the outer corner of your eye at the Gallbladder 1 point, and hold for five deep breaths.  Repeat this on the other eye.  If it’s comfortable, you can hold the points on both eyes at the same time.  Start out with one round of holding these points, then increase daily to about five minutes total, if that is comfortable. 

Acupressure can be effective when you practice it on a regular basis.  So try this routine once or twice a day at a regular time.  After you get up in the morning, and before you go to bed are often times when it’s easier to develop a regular routine.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

Warning: Do not use this point on pregnant women.

Name: Three Yin Intersection (Spleen 6)

This point, on the inside lower leg, has one of those helpfully descriptive and practical names, because it is indeed where the three yin meridians–spleen, liver and kidney–intersect.

This point can help address reproductive disorders, including menstrual cycle irregularity, pre-menstrual discomfort, and menstruation pain.  Since it’s on the leg, it can be used for pain in the lower leg and ankle.  Helpful also for digestive problems and pain in lower abdomen, for “restless” fatigue and insomnia.

Location: You’ll find this point on the inside lower leg, four fingers’ width above the ankle bone.
spleen 6 dot  spleen 6 four fingers
As with all acupressure points except the ones that run down the center of your body, this point is bilateral, which means it’s found on both legs.

To hold: There are several ways you can do this.  It’s important that you are comfortable in your shoulders, arm and hand, and also your legs, so experiment with different ways to hold the point to see what is most comfortable.

spleen 6 fingers

You can take the thumb of one hand, and gently hold the point on the opposite leg, as in the photo above (right hand thumb holding left leg).  Sitting in a chair, you can put one foot flat on the floor and cross the other leg with the shin over your knee, so you can reach the point easily.

Lying on the floor or your bed, you can take the same position as if you were on a chair, with one foot flat on the floor, and the other leg crossed over so you can reach the point with the opposite hand. 

To try it sitting on the floor, on a bed or a couch, bend your knees and bring your feet toward each other so your legs form a diamond or omega shape. Using the same hand as the leg, hold one point or both hands; one hand on each leg.  Depending on your flexibility, this may or may not be easy and comfortable.  Try putting a bolster or cushion under you knees for support.

Experiment to see what is most comfortable, and what is reasonable based on where you find yourself.

How much pressure?  Spleen 6 can be a very sensitive point, and may be tender even with just a light touch, especially for women pre- and during menstruation.  Just rest your finger on the point, there’s no need to apply pressure. If it’s too tender, release gently. 

On the other hand, you may feel nothing, and pushing harder won’t change that.  At such times, it may be impossible to find the point because you don’t feel anything.  Try holding the palm of your hand over the general area; this can be effective even though you don’t feel it directly.

How long?  Some women feel immediate relief from pain and discomfort when they hold this point.  You can start out by holding for 15 to 30 seconds, if that feels comfortable.  If you are dealing with a chronic issue, daily holding of this point can be helpful.  Hold the point longer every day or so until you work up to one minute.  Repeat a couple of times on each leg.

Warning: Do not use this point on pregnant women.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

Name: Great Surge (Liver 3)

This point is on the top of your foot and helps address fatigue, headaches, insomnia related to “busy mind”, hangovers, eye issues (swelling, pain) and alleviates pain. It’s also helpful in energizing.  Some people feel a “great surge” of energy move from their feet, up their legs and bodies; hence the name.

Location: This point is on the top of your foot, in the “valley” at the point where your big toe and second toe bones meet, above the arch of your foot.  See where the dot is on the photo below.  (If you’re familiar with the Hoku point on the hand, you can think of this as the similar point on your foot.)
liverTop
As with all acupressure points except the ones that run down the center of your body, this point is bilateral, which means it’s found on both feet.

To hold: There are several ways you can do this.  It’s important that you are comfortable in your shoulders and arms, so experiment with different ways to hold the point, and see what is most comfortable.

You can sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground, and bend down to reach the top of your foot with your index or middle finger.  Firmly press on the point with a steady pressure.  Hold first for 10 seconds or so, and then work up to a minute as long as it is comfortable.  As with holding all acupressure points, take deep slow breaths as you hold the point.

I find that it can be easier to hold this point by “sandwiching” it between one finger to top of my foot, and another underneath.  See the photos below where I use my thumb on top in one case; the index finger on top in another.

liver32    liver3 3

Often, this point can be tender; if it is, release the pressure if it is too uncomfortable.  This point, too, can take a lot of pressure, so experiment with different degrees of pressure. 

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

Name: Crooked Pond (Large Intestine 11)

This point on the crease of your bent elbow, helps address constipation , intestinal discomfort from diarrhea and cramping, fever, sore throat, and elbow issues. It’s also helpful in balancing the immune system.

Location: Bend your arm and look at the crease by your elbow. The point is at the end of the crease, closer to your elbow. See where the red dot is in photo below.LI11 dot As with all acupressure points except the ones that run down the center of your body, this point is bilateral, which means it’s found on both arms.

To hold: Cradle your elbow with your other hand, and use your thumb to hold this point. You can lightly touch it, or massage with a firm touch, in a clockwise motion. Try just one arm, or both, if it’s comfortable. Remember to keep your shoulders and arms relaxed.

LI11 hold

If you have constipation or intestinal discomfort, you may feel relief quickly; the clockwise rubbing might work especially well.

For fever and general immune system balancing, lightly touch the point and hold for a few minutes, as long as it’s comfortable. You can do this several times a day.

For elbow issues, be gentle, but firm as long as it’s not painful.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

This recent New York Times blog post on The Migraine Diet has obviously hit a nerve. It’s the most emailed article, and there are hundreds of comments.

The blogger writes about her own experience of migraines and of trying out a plan to heal herself that includes 1) stopping medications, 2) identifying and eliminating triggers that can be addressed, like food, alcohol, smoking, and 3) daily preventative measures, which I guess would include things like exercise.

A few comments were about success with acupuncture.  From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the connection between diet and headaches has been understood.  It’s fairly easy to see the connection for people who tend to get headaches when they are constipated, or overdue for a regular bowel movement.

Among acupressure/acupuncture points, the Hoku point is the one most often suggested for dealing with such a headache. It is on the Large Intestine meridian, which suggests an energetic connection with the Large Intestine organ.  So, if you suffer from a headache or migraine, try pressing/rubbing the Hoku point, which is described here. Also, when you are constipated, try this.

For a strong headache, you may need to hold the point for a while.  Make sure you do not overdo it; that is, that your other hand does not get tired from holding the point.  You can hold the point on both hands.  Hold for one or two minutes, take a break, then hold again.  If you can get someone else to hold them for you, that can be helpful, too.  And try acupuncture if you can.  It can address a point more powerfully than acupressure.

There’s no guarantee that this will address your headache, especially if there is something else triggering it or it’s a migraine.  Of course, you should see a medical professional for a serious condition.

Please note, Hoku is not safe for women who are pregnant. An alternative, which anyone can try, is to squeeze and massage the toes, and the rest of the foot. But especially the toes.  In reflexology, your toes are associated with your head.

LOVE YOUR TOES! 

I say this to my clients and students often.  Why? Because our feet work so hard for us, and are often neglected, as so much swirls around our heads.  Love your toes and ground yourself.

If you’re having a hard time sleeping because your mind’s racing, spend some time rubbing, squeezing and massaging your toes and feet before you go to sleep.  Do this yourself, or ask your partner to do this for you.  Even a few minutes will feel wonderful.

I haven’t liked my toes or my feet much; my feet are flat and not cute in the dance shoes that I wish I could wear.  But that changed with yoga.  Now I spend a lot of time looking at my toes, and they’re kind of cute! 

So, one way I love my toes is to dress them up once in a while with nail polish.  But I’ve been reluctant to do this too much because the nail polish and nail polish removers are gross.  They smell like chemicals and unhealthy.  Forget about going into a nail salon! 

I finally did something about this. 

Yesterday, I bought non-toxic biodegradable nailpolish remover ($9.99) and a water-based nail polish–desert sunset color ($8.99) from Sun Coat.  (Bought at Real Food Co. in San Francisco, on Polk Street.)  No chemical solvents such as toluene, acetates and alcohol; no pthalates; no formaldehyde.  And no smell!  The conventional nail polish I had on my toenails came off well.  I’ll say it again, No Smell!  I’ll paint my nails again later and will report back.  (My friend told me about another line of healthier nail polish: No Miss Nail Polish.)

PS: Back to a busy mind.  One way to deal with this is to turn it upside down.  Try legs-up-the-wall yoga pose.

Jet lag, uncomfortable hotel beds, hauling around luggage…these are just some of the things we deal with when traveling. Here are some tips for wellness on the road. We’ll cover these and others in the next wellness class, “Travel Better with Acupressure” at Elephant Pharmacy.

Stay Hydrated

Did you know that air on airplanes is dryer than the desert? To improve your experience during and after your flight, drink water before, during and after; one glass per hour. Also, soak in water–a bath, pool, the ocean–as soon as you can after the flight. I took a nice hot bath after a 16-hour journey; I think it helped since I didn’t experience jet lag! Read more tips here.

Acu Point: Inner Gate

This point can help quell a queasy stomach on a turbulent flight or taxi-ride, as well as help relieve insomnia that might be related to feelings of anxiousness. It’s on the inner forearm and easy to hold wherever you are. Read on to learn more about the point.

Grounding Through Routine

When we travel, by definition we are away from home. This can be fun and exciting, but it can also be disconcerting to be away from the grounding foundation of home-base. In Chinese Medicine, routine is associated with the Earth element and the idea of “home”. So next time you travel, consider if there’s part of your home routine that you might take with you–whether it’s your daily morning walk, afternoon coffee break, or bedtime reading.

I’ve had braces on my teeth for four months now, and I’ve been acutely aware of different ways I hold tension in my jaw and mouth.

Clenching teeth and holding tension in the jaw can lead to discomforts like headaches, neck and shoulder tightness, and TMJ.

Here are some tips to help relax the jaw.

Tongue to Roof of Mouth

I learned this in yoga. Gently allow the tip of your tongue to float up to the roof of your mouth. Your jaw should naturally drop and relax. You can try this any time you notice that you are clenching your teeth or furrowing your brow.

Acu Point: HOKU

This is one of the best overall stress-relieving points. Holding this point on the top of the hand can help with relieving so many discomforts–insomnia, headaches, constipation, shoulder and neck tension–that could be causing or exacerbated by tension in the jaw. Read on.

Bedtime Jaw Squeeze

If you wake up with soreness in your jaw and teeth, try this simple sqeeze before going to sleep. Sit up straight, relax your shoulders and arms, and take a nice deep breath. Now gently press your palms on the sides of your face by your jaw. Clench your teeth and you can feel a muscle bulge; that’s where you want to place your palms. Relax your jaw–try the Tongue to Roof of Mouth explained above–and hold you palms firmly but comfortably on your jaws while you take five deep breaths, in and out. Release your hands, relax your shoulders, and take five more deep breaths. Repeat the squeeze and relaxing two more times.

(Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, or chronic pain, may contribute to sleep problems. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.)

A month ago, I talked with a man in my building who complained about many months of feeling poorly. A couple of hours after eating, he would get a stomache and then a headache. It didn’t matter what he ate. This would always happen.

I was not surprised to hear that he got both a stomache AND a headache, because in Traditional Chinese Medicine, issues with digestion and headaches are connected. I told this man that I practice acupressure and showed him the HOKU acupressure point, which is on the Large Intestine meridian. He said he felt immediately relaxation and a decrease in his headache.

Yesterday, I ran into him again and he looked great. Apparently a Chinese herbalist had turned him onto Po Chai Pills, which I just researched and learned is an herbal blend in small pill size that address symptoms of indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting… While my neighbor’s pills were the “original” brand from Hong Kong, it seems that po chai pill may be a generally used name for herbal supplement remedies for stomachaches.

His stomachache swent away, and so did his headaches. He carries a vial of Po Chai in his shirt pocket.

So, next time you have a headache, pay attention and see if your stomach is upset. Did you eat something unusual? Or does a regular headache correlate to a regular digestive discomfort?

I’m not trained in herbs, so I encourage you to check with a trained practitioner, if you are considering adding them to your own Healthy Intentions Toolkit.

Warning: Do not use this point on pregnant women.


Name: Hoku or Joining of the Valleys (Large Intestine 4)LI4 point

Location: On the top of the hand, on the web where the thumb and the index finger meet. (See the red dot on the hand in the photo.)LI4 demo1
To hold: Squeeze the point by putting your thumb on the point, and your index finger on the palm side of your hand. Make small circular motions with your thumb until you feel the point; it is tender on many people.LI4 demo2Make sure that the hand that is holding the point is relaxed. The demo photo above shows you how to hold the point, but the hands are a little tense; the second photo, on the right, shows you the hands relaxed, which is how you want to do it.

Hold for 10 or 15 seconds initially, until you figure out what works for you. You can hold for a few minutes, but make sure that the holding hand does not get tense or tired out. Release gently if you feel any acute pain.

This is a wonderful point. It is effective for relieving so many discomforts, including headaches, constipation, insomnia, stress, shoulder and neck tension.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.