All posts by john@acupressure.com.au

Hypertension

I’ve been watching some World Cup matches lately, following the Australia and England teams through their tense encounters. While I haven’t been measuring my blood pressure, I am sure that it was elevated during the games, especially in England’s penalty shootout with Colombia. Excitement, anxiety, anger, fear, worry, shock – all of these emotions have an effect on blood pressure. It is well known that the anxiety of having your blood pressure taken by a doctor tends to elevate the reading.

Hypertension is the long-term elevation of blood pressure, a condition that poses health risks. One of its features is that it has no symptoms, so we can be in danger without even knowing it. Another complicating factor is that there is no clear agreement about what is a dangerous level of blood pressure. Broadly speaking, normal blood pressure is between 90/60 and 120/80. * Above 140/90 is considered hypertension, while anything over 180/120 is considered severe and requiring immediate attention.

Long-term hypertension causes damage to the arteries, with the risk of rupture (aneurysm). This includes possible rupture of the blood vessels of the brain, leading to stroke. The heart is also affected by hypertension with risks of coronary artery disease and possible heart failure.

It’s no wonder that doctors are quick to prescribe medications that will lower blood pressure, but these also have side effects. Ways to lower blood pressure by lifestyle changes include losing weight, lowering fats and sugars in the diet, eating more fibre, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and exercising regularly. Reducing the stressors in your life is key, and you can help this by mindfulness practices, meditating, practising Qigong or Tai Chi. And of course, getting Acupressure treatments.

Early in my career I discovered the power of Acupressure treatments in general, and the use of Gall Bladder 21 in particular, to lower blood pressure. A client regularly monitored her BP before treatment, after treatment, and when she got home. The reading was always lower at the end of the session, but even lower still when she got home after driving on the California freeways!

Since then Gall Bladder 21 has been my favourite point for hypertension, but there are many more. A quick look at my primary references, Deadman and Jarmey, show these 26 points as indicated for hypertension:

Meridian Element Points
Lung Metal 7
Large Intestine Metal 4, 11, 15
Stomach Earth 9, 36, 40, 41
Spleen Earth 6
Small Intestine Fire 3
Kidney Water 1, 6
Heart Protector Fire 6, 8, 9
Triple Heater Fire 5
Gall Bladder Wood 20, 21, 34, 43
Liver Wood 2, 3
Governor Vessel 14, 16, 20, 26

I was interested to note that 16 of these 26 points are in the 51 Point Palette in my Level 1 Five Element Acupressure course, meaning that they are quite common points with other uses. You might also observe that two-thirds of the points are on yang meridians, and that many of the points are used for reducing yang or to descend Qi. This of course addresses the nature of the condition which is one of excess yang.

It doesn’t make sense to use all of these points. For a start, it would make for a very long session and probably too much treatment. When treating, I find it most powerful to use point combinations, a focal point with one hand, while the other hand holds several other related points in succession.

Drawing from the points list above, here are some suggestions for some point combinations that I use often in the treatment room. Most of these points link to previous articles. For the others, consult your point location book or internet search.

Note that Large Intestine 4 and Spleen 6 are forbidden during pregnancy. If you are  treating a pregnant client, omit these points.

Focal Point Related Points
Large Intestine 4 Large Intestine 11,  15;  Lung 7
Stomach 36 Stomach 40,  Spleen 6
Kidney 6 Kidney 1,  Lung 7
Triple Heater 5 Heart Protector 6,  8,  9
Gall Bladder 21 Gall Bladder 20,  34;  Stomach 36;  Large Intestine 4
Liver 3 Spleen 6,  Gall Bladder 34
Governor Vessel Small Intestine 3 + Governor Vessel 14,  16,  20

How do you choose which pattern to use? One way is to consider the person you are treating. Which Element and emotion is presenting? If the person is someone who is predominantly angry, who gets outraged at injustice, or alternatively suppresses anger, then focus on the Wood points of Gall Bladder and Liver. If the person is a caretaker, constantly putting the needs of others before self, or if obesity is a problem, then treat the Earth points of Stomach and Spleen. Or maybe the person is showing their Metal, hanging on, perfectionistic, grieving or suppressing grief, then treat the Metal points of Lung and Large Intestine. If the person’s predominant emotion is fearfulness or conspicuous absence of fear, focus on Water points of Kidney. Or if the person is over-excited and chaotic or heart-broken and joyless, focus on the Fire points of Small Intestine, Triple Heater and Heart Protector. Points of the Governor Vessel will be helpful for everyone.

It is best if you can receive treatment from someone else. That way you can relax into the treatment, focus on your breathing and generally slow down. If you are treating yourself, some of these combinations will be awkward if not impossible, in which case treat the points individually in the order suggested.

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to help reduce blood pressure in a natural way that can support a medical approach.  Good luck to your team in the World Cup and hold points during penalty shootouts!

 

* BP is expressed as a measurement with two numbers, with one number on top and one on the bottom. For example, 120/80 mm Hg. The top number refers to the amount of pressure in the arteries during the contraction of the heart muscle (systolic). The bottom number refers to the pressure between heartbeats (diastolic).

Pulling the Plugs

The other day a friend of mine was experiencing a pressure headache on the top and back of the head. I suspected a backup of Qi in the Gall Bladder meridian so I held the exit point of that meridian (GB 41) but it had no effect. So I moved to the exit point of Bladder meridian (BL 67) and within two minutes the pressure and ache had gone from the head.

This gave me the idea of writing a blog about the exit points of the three yang meridians of the leg, what I call the bath plug points. When any of these points is blocked, Qi can back up along the channel all the way to the head and face, producing symptoms of pressure, fullness, congestion or pain. It is good to keep these points in mind as they can effect major improvements in health with little work.

The three yang meridians of the leg are Gall Bladder, Bladder and Stomach. They all begin on the face and wend their ways down the body to the feet, Gall Bladder down the sides of the body, Bladder down the back of the body, and Stomach down the front. These three are the longest of all the primary organ meridians and contain the most points. (Gall Bladder has 44 points, Bladder 67 and Stomach 45.) That means that over half of the acupoints of the primary meridians lie on these three yang meridians of the leg. Lots of places for blocks to occur.

Let’s look at each of these meridians in turn to see what kinds of conditions can arise when their bath plugs become stuck.

Gall Bladder 41 ~ Zulinqi ~ Foot Above Tears

This point is one of my favourites, and one that I use frequently, because our busy, demanding, stressful world can put a lot of pressure on the Gall Bladder official who is responsible for making decisions and taking action.

You can find a fuller exploration of this point in a previous blog. Here I will focus on its role as an exit point. Entry and exit points are not a part of the TCM teaching but are a significant part of the Five Element tradition. Blocks at points where Qi enters or leaves the meridian can become impediments to treatment progressing.

When GB 41 is blocked, Qi can back up along the length of the meridian, producing symptoms in the sides of the legs, hips, the sides of the ribcage, shoulders, neck, head and eyes. One of the more common conditions associated with this block is occipital and frontal headache, sometimes with pain behind the eyes and/or visual distortions.

I once treated a 50 year old client, a busy businessman, who experienced ongoing headaches, almost every day since he was a teenager. I held Foot Above Tears on both feet and could feel a tremendous congestion there. He felt nothing at all for a couple of minutes, then suddenly he practically jumped off the table as the pressure broke through the crust and he felt the pain of the points. I then continued with steady pressure for several more minutes until he no longer felt the sensation. His headache had cleared.

I didn’t see him again for a couple of months. I assumed the treatment had not worked. But when he returned, he assured me that it had and that he had been headache free for those months, and was returning because the headaches were just starting to come back. This was a significant outcome from one treatment and shows the power of this point when used at the right time

This point can also be useful when frustrations or the burdens of responsibility cause a build up of pressure in the neck and shoulders. If you press into the top of someone’s shoulders (GB 21) and there is a lot of tension, you may find that holding GB 41 will help that tension to soften and descend down the body.

Location of Gall Bladder 41

At the junction of the fourth and fifth metatarsals. Draw up between the fourth and fifth toes, cross over the tendon, and drop into the hollow between these bones where they meet.

 

 

Bladder 67 ~ Zhiyin ~ Reaching Yin

The Bladder pathway reaches the end of its long and circuitous journey down the body at BL 67 at the corner of the little toenail. As with the other exit points of the yang meridians of the leg, if this point becomes blocked, Qi can back up along the pathway which in this case includes the calves, hamstrings, hips, sacrum, back, neck, top of the head and eyes.

BL 67’s capacity to cause Qi to descend is seen in its role in promoting labour, and its particular effect of turning a baby which is in breech position. While the point is great for a woman about to give birth, it should be avoided during the earlier stages of pregnancy. We don’t want to take that plug out too soon. After the birth, this point can also help persuade the placenta to release.

As shown in the recent case of my friend, described above, when there is headache on the top (vertex) or the back (occipital) of the head, or in the neck at the upper cervical vertebrae, this point can be useful in descending that congested Qi.

The Bladder channel begins at the inner corner of the eye, just above the tear duct. When Qi is blocked here it can result in pain in the eyes, dry eyes, redness or blurred vision, an inability to make tears, or alternatively, too much tearing. The exit point at the opposite end of the meridian, Reaching Yin, can be treated to pull the Qi down the meridian.

Location of Bladder 67

On the outside corner of the nailbed of the little toe. Draw a line from the lateral border of the nail, and another from the base of the nail. The point is where these lines meet.

 

 

Stomach 42 ~ Chongyang ~ Rushing Yang

The Stomach meridian starts just under the eye in the soft tissue below the lower eyelid. It travels down through the cheeks and jaw, takes a brief side trip into the temple, continues on through the throat, and down through the breasts, the abdomen and along the front of the legs and shins, reaching the exit point at Stomach 42.

When this point becomes blocked, it can cause symptoms of pain or discomfort in any of these areas. When a person has pain in the cheeks or jaw, or there is congestion in the throat, I will check if there is a block in Stomach 42.

A block at Chongyang is often associated not only with physical symptoms in the head and throat, but also with the psycho-emotional condition of worry or over-thinking. One of the responsibilities of the Earth Element (in particular the Spleen) is the proper functioning of mental processes. When we think too much, if worry a lot, if the mind goes round and round the same issue, or even if we are doing a lot of study or other concentration, this energy can get stuck in the head. Stomach 42 can come to the rescue.

One of the functions of the Stomach Official is to receive. This is known as Stomach Receiving. The receiving of food is an obvious role, but it also is responsible for receiiving other kinds of things such as love, praise, admiration, compliments and help. People who have difficulty letting such things in or have a tendency to push away or reject these things from others, may develop a block in the Stomach receiving. Stomach 42 should be checked.

Location of Stomach 42

On the top of the foot, in a shallow hollow 1.5 cun (2 fingers width) from the ankle crease. Alternatively, draw up between the second and third toes until you fall into the hollow.

 

 

Method of Treatment

When treating these points, begin by holding both points with steady, moderate pressure for two or three minutes. A block could show itself as a feeling of fullness, like a whirlpool of congested Qi; or it could manifest as a feeling of deadness or complete absence which breaks through after a while, as described in the GB 41 case above. With sustained pressure, either of these extremes will begin to come back to centre, the Qi feeling like a comfortable presence under your fingers. For deeper work, hold the points one at a time, beginning with the left side, until you feel the bath plug pop out.

Healing Trauma

Last month I wrote about the use of Acupressure for cancer patients, linking suggested points to previous articles. It was then that I realised that Bladder 43, the outer shu point of Heart Protector, did not have an article to link to. Therefore I’m reprinting the article from my book ‘The Way of the Five Elements’. This is such an important point for any condition related to the emotional heart. And as you’ll see, its uses range far and wide. You might say it is a point for being human.

Gaohuangshu – Rich for the Vitals – Bladder 43

It is the nature of being human that we are vulnerable. We inhabit fragile bodies and have delicate feelings. We are sensitive to many external stimuli from physical objects, and from what other people do and say to us. We are influenced, even if we don’t know it, by the thoughts and feelings of others. It is this vulnerability that gives us the capacity for deep contact with others and the world. But it also means that we are easily hurt.

Babies are born totally vulnerable. It is one reason they are so adorable. But soon the child develops a protective shell to shield her from the slings and arrows of life in the human realm. When these traumas of life are outrageous, egregious, and they penetrate the shell, it is the Heart Protector which absorbs the shock so as to protect the Heart. When the insults to the Heart are great, the Heart Protector is deeply injured. Therefore healing trauma requires healing the Heart Protector.

One of the best points for working with trauma of all kinds is the outer shu point of the Heart Protector, Gaohuangshu – Rich for the Vitals which lies between the shoulder blades and behind the heart.

This point exerts a strong influence over the official of the Heart Protector, especially at emotional and psychological levels. However, the point name itself refers to the Gaohuang, a region in the chest, whose influence is much wider and deeper than that of the Heart Protector alone.

The Gaohuang or Vital Region, is an area in the chest about four body inches in diameter, lying between the centre and base of the sternum, and extending laterally to the pathways of the Kidney meridian.

When there is illness that is caused by deep heartbreak, betrayal, abuse, shame, or isolation, this vital region is deeply impacted and the effects go deep into our being. Jarrett sees this as a place where deep karmic issues and conflicts reside, and where dark family secrets live. Chronic or incurable disease is said to lodge here.

Classical texts observe that Gaohuangshu deeply nourishes and calms the Heart as well as Kidney and Spleen. The action of this point was considered so great that it was said to strengthen the original Qi and treat every kind of deficiency. Sun Si-miao, the famous 7th century physician, went so far as to say that there is no disorder it cannot treat.

Gaohuangshu is a great tonic point for the physical body, treating exhaustion and general deficiency, increasing stamina and supporting all the organs. It brings warmth and strength and increases blood circulation.

At the emotional level, the point brings warmth when a person is emotionally cold and shut down. It helps to dispel depression and mental negativity. When someone has little capacity for intimacy and humour because they are too depleted or vulnerable, this point lifts the spirit.

Location of Bladder 43

Gaohuangshu, is located between the shoulder blades, 3 cun lateral to the midline, at the level of the junction of T4 and T5 and at the medial border of the scapula. It is approximately half way down the scapula. Use firm, direct pressure. To treat yourself, lie on a tennis ball or other object that presses into the point. Arrange the pressure so you can be as relaxed as possible. Having someone you trust hold this point can be very healing.