Acupressure is one of the most effective natural remedies for high blood pressure. While you can consult an acupressure practitioner for a full treatment program, you can also massage some acupressure points yourself, as shown below, which have the potential to bring down a high blood pressure. Massaging a point in the foot for 3 minutes was shown to reduce a high blood pressure immediately, with a reduction of 22.1/7.7 mmHg when measured 30 minutes later.
What is acupressure?
Acupressure is an ancient oriental technique practiced in China and Japan for over 3,000 years. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but instead of inserting needles at special acupoints on the skin, they are stimulated using firm thumb pressure or fingertip massage. Sometimes a therapist will also use their palms, elbows, knees and feet to stimulate different parts of your body.
There are several forms of acupressure massage, such as Anma in Japan which has now evolved into Shiatsu. Shiatsu is the Japanese word for ‘finger pressure’ and is a combination of massage and acupressure which stimulates a variety of specific points on the body.
In China, different forms of acupressure include Tui Na, which literally means ‘pinch and pull’ and Shen Tao in which very light pressure is applied with just the fingertips. In another form, Jin Shen Do, relatively few acupoints are used and the therapy is given while you are in a meditative state.
Acupressure is traditionally said to improve the circulation of life energy, referred to as Qi or Ch’i (pronounced chee) in China and Ki in Japan.
Qi is believed to flow through the body along special channels known as meridians. There are twelve main meridians plus another eight that have a regulating function, making 20 in all. Qi energy flows along these meridians and becomes concentrated at points known as acupoints where it can enter or leave the body.
Stimulating acupoints is designed to overcome imbalances or blockages in the flow of Qi that lead to ill health, including high blood pressure.
Three hundred and sixty five classic acupoints were traditionally identified on meridian charts. As acupoints have a lower electrical resistance than surrounding areas they can be pinpointed with great accuracy with a simple, hand held device that measures electrical potentials across the skin. Around 2000 acupoints have now been discovered and are depicted on modern charts and are used to relieve both emotional and physical ill health.
When energy flow becomes abnormal, acupoints on the surrounding skin become tender and painful to touch. These are known as tsubos and are important areas on which to apply acupressure during self treatment.
Devices that stimulate acupoints electronically in a painless way are also available.
Acupressure for high blood pressure
Acupressure is relaxing and may partly work by stimulating release of the body’s natural endorphin painkillers to relieve pain and lift a low mood. One of the most commonly used acupoints to treat high blood pressure is the Tai Chong acupoint in the foot.
A study involving 80 people compared the effects of acupressure in people with hypertension who were attending a cardiology outpatients department in Taiwan. Half were randomised to receive true acupressure at the Tai chong acupoint, while half had sham acupressure applied over a point that was not a recognised acupoint. In both groups, the thumb was used to apply pressure (equivalent to around 3kg in weight) which was held for 5 seconds and then released for 1 second. This hold-release pattern was repeated 30 times over the course of 3 minutes.
In the group who received true acupressure, average blood pressure before the treatment was 165.0/96.3 mmHg. Immediately after the acupressure, average blood pressure was 150.4/92.7 mmHg. When measured 15 minutes later it was 145.7/90.8, and 30 minutes after the acupressure it was 142.9/88.6 mmHg). No significant changes in blood pressure occurred in those receiving sham acupressure. No more measurements were made in the clinical situation, so it is not known whether the blood pressure continued to reduce, or for how long the beneficial effects lasted.
This study suggests that the use of acupressure on the traditionally used Tai Chong acupoint in the foot is effective in lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension. The effects were immediate, and lasted for at least 30 minutes, with an average recorded reduction in blood pressure of 22.1/7.7 mmHg after 30 minutes.
Acupressure points to lower blood pressure
The Tai chong acupoint in the foot is point LV 3 on the liver meridian. Its name, Tai Chong, means Great Surge. Stimulating this point is an important part of treating hypertension and is believed to release excess or stagnant energy along the liver meridian.
LV 3 is situated on the back of your foot, in a depression near the junction of the 1st and 2nd metatarsal bones at the base of your big toe and second toe.
To find LV 3, place your index finger on the top of your foot, on the web of skin between your big toe and second toes. Slide your finger two centimetres up over the top of your foot, until you feel a depression between the two underlying bones.
Press lightly on this acupoint, and gradually increase the pressure as much as you can tolerate. Then release the pressure gradually and build it up again to stimulate the point.
Continue this press-release pattern for 3 minutes, while breathing slowly and deeply.
Do this twice a day, morning and evening, on two or three days a week. It can be done every day if you wish.
If your blood pressure is high, the Tai Chong acupressure point is sometimes easily identifiable as shown in the following clip:
Neck acupressure points to lower blood pressure
Massaging two acupressure points above the nape of your neck can help to bring blood pressure down. These points, on the Gallbladder meridian (GB 20) are known in Chinese medicine as Feng Chi or Wind Pool. To find these points, place your thumbs on your earlobes and slide them back towards the base of your skull. They should fall into a small depression on either side of your neck vertebrae, about 2cm (1 inch) above your hairline. Try bending your head forwards and back again to find them. Massage these points with firm thumb pressure for one minute. These points are also used to treat stress, migraine, dizziness and sinusitis.
Forehead acupressure point to lower blood pressure
An acupressure point known as Yin Tang or the Third Eye Point is used to treat high blood pressure, stress, anxiety, insomnia and can help you relax.
You can find this acupressure point between your eyebrows, directly between your eyebrows in the indentation where the bridge of your nose meets your forehead.
Massage this point with your dominant middle finger (right for most people, left for left-handers) using firm pressure. make small rotating movements over the point, both clockwise and anticlockwise.
Manipulate this point for three minutes to help clear your mind, calm your body and lower your blood pressure. This point is good for treating tension headache, too.
Hand acupressure points to lower blood pressure and relieve tension headache
A point on the back of the hand on the large intestine meridian, known as Li 4, He Gu, or Union Valley, can help to lower blood pressure associated with pain such as headache. NB This point should not be used during pregnancy, except when it is used to promote labour.
You can find the point on the back of your hand, just in front of the place where the bone at the base of your thumb meets the bone at the base of your index finger. This point is nestled deep in the web between your thumb and index finger.
When you have found the right spot it will often feel tender.
Massage this point by applying firm pressure and making small rotations both clockwise and anticlockwise over the point. This will help to reduce an excess of stagnant Qi. Pressure needs to be firm enough to cause some initial discomfort.
Massage this point for three minutes and repeat as necessary.
Scalp acupressure points to relieve stress headache
If you have a stress-related headache, you can simply feel your scalp overlying the main site of your headache and try to identify tender spots.
Massage any tender spots firmly.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
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