Category Archives: Digestion

How Effective Is Self-Acupressure?

One of the most common questions I get from clients and students is, “Can I do this on myself?” The answer is, certainly! But as you might expect, it is not as effective as working with a skilled acupressure therapist. (I want to keep my job after all.) Even so, there are some things you can do to make self-acupressure an important and effective part of your health maintenance program.

With all my experience and knowledge, I cannot treat myself as well as another practitioner can. The main reason for this is that when you self-treat, you are trying to be both practitioner and client at the same time and so your intention becomes divided. As client you cannot fully relax because you are holding and focusing on the point; as practitioner you cannot bring all your attention to treating the point because you are trying to relax into it.

Another major reason that self-acupressure is limited is that it is almost impossible to see ourselves objectively. You can’t see your own blind spots. So when you try to diagnose your imbalance, you simply can’t see what you can’t see. Another practitioner is more able to view your case objectively and so may be able to choose points that will more effective for you.

When it comes to treatment of self or other, there are four levels of increasing depth at which we can treat:

  1. First Aid
  2. Symptomatic
  3. Diagnostic
  4. Constitutional

Self-acupressure is best suited to the first level, that of First Aid. Let’s say you are feeling bloated and nauseated after eating too much. Holding Stomach 36 will probably ease your condition. Maybe you have a headache with pain at the back of your head and behind your eyes. Gall Bladder 20 is a good choice for easing the pain. At this level of treatment we are choosing a single point for a single condition.

The second level, what I call the Symptomatic Level of treatment, is where you notice a range of symptoms and associations from which you recognise that a particular Element is calling for attention. Let’s say you have stomach pain and reflux, are feeling more fatigued than usual, and there is a build up of fluid in your lower legs and ankles. The Earth Element is clearly calling for attention. A treatment pattern that combines Stomach and Spleen points is probably going to treat you more deeply than simply holding Stomach 36. However, if you are doing self-acupressure, it can be difficult to hold points in combination because of the contortions you have to make. For example, holding Spleen 4 with the opposite Spleen 21 would be a good combination, but even Houdini might be stretched with this one.

The third level, the Diagnostic, looks at the interplay of all the Elements. In the above example, where the Earth is out of balance, I would be most interested in the mother Element which in this case is Fire, and the grandmother Element which is Wood. How are these other Elements involved, or even contributing to the Earth imbalance? While a practitioner can observe you objectively, you may not be able to see your own wobbles. This is especially true when working at the psycho-emotional level where our old patterns, beliefs and behaviours might obscure a clear view of ourselves.

The deepest level of treatment is at the Constitutional Level where treatment focuses on points of the Element that is at the core of our energetic structure. It can be particularly difficult to self-diagnose our Constitution. It’s hard enough to do it for someone else. If you know your Constitutional Element, then you can focus on the points of that Element, but it is not possible to sink deeply into the treatment when you are focused on doing the treatment

So far I’ve been pointing out the limitations of self-acupressure. But that is not to say that you can’t get some very good benefits from working on yourself. Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of a self-acupressure treatment.

Choosing the right point

While holding any acupoint at all will make a positive intervention into your own energetic structure, the more closely you can match your symptoms and conditions with appropriate points, the better the results will be. My book ‘The Way of the Five Elements’ is useful because it describes the locations and related conditions of 54 powerful points. It also has a good index to match points to conditions. In addition, each point comes with a list of related points so you can make your work more effective with point combinations. If you don’t have my book, simply go online and search for your condition + acupressure and you will come up with many suggestions. You could begin with a keyword search of this blog site.

Finding the point accurately

An acupuncturist who is inserting a needle needs to be accurate within 1-2 millimetres; but when using finger pressure we have more latitude as the pressure is exerted over a wider area. Even so, the more accurate you are, the more powerful the treatment will be. While a point location book will give you a picture or an anatomical description, this is not the point itself. A map is not the territory. What you must search for is the feeling of the Qi of the point. Feel for the pulsing, waving, whooshing, tingling vibration that is the sensation of the movement of Qi. This is how you will know you have the point. If you don’t feel this, try moving your finger slowly around in a small circle, looking for that feeling. It may take time for you to develop this skill, but be patient and the Qi will come to you.

Being present with the point

Do your self-treatment when you are in a quiet, restful place. Doing it while watching TV or chatting to someone will not make for effective outcomes. As you hold the point, send your mind down into the point. The Japanese symbol for an acupoint (tsubo) shows a vessel with a long neck and a little lid over it. Sustained pressure will remove the lid and allow your intention to go down into the depth of the point and influence the Qi. Treat your session as a meditation.


Noticing the effects

Observe what happens as you hold the point. Be as present as you can with the physical sensations, and any emotions, thoughts or memories that might arise. Just be with them without judgement or a need to change anything. You might notice energy moving in other parts of your body and perhaps other points calling to you for treatment. Don’t rush to treat elsewhere, but wait until the point you are holding feels complete before moving on. You will find one level of release after two or three minutes, but sustained holding will go to deeper and deeper levels of release.

Concluding the treatment

After you’ve finished your work, sit or lie with the effects. Notice what has changed. Notice what has not changed. You might hold your hands over your belly centre (Conception Vessel 6) as you contemplate your treatment. And when you do get up, try to take the new awareness of yourself into your daily life.

I wish you well in your explorations.


Holding Jet Lag at Bay

A forthcoming trip to the northern hemisphere has put me in mind of the acupressure treatment for jet lag.

Long haul jet travel has a profound effect on the daily rhythm of the body’s Qi by switching time zones very quickly. Symptoms of the condition include fatigue, insomnia, disrupted sleep and digestion, constipation or diarrhoea, and general malaise. It can take up to a day to recover for each time zone crossed, so a trip from Sydney to London can take a week or more to adjust. Eastward travel is more challenging to the body than westward.

There is an acupressure treatment protocol that can help you adjust to local time more quickly and avoid some of the more difficult symptoms of jet lag. It is not a simple one-point treatment but requires you to hold points every two hours throughout your journey. But the efforts will pay off.

The treatment protocol is based on the Chinese Clock which shows the movement of the tide of Qi through the 12 meridians over a 24 hour period. While there is Qi moving through all the meridians at all times, there is a high tide that moves around the meridian system. Disruptions to flow in a meridian can produce symptoms and conditions that relate to that meridian.

When we change time zones quickly, this diurnal rhythm is thrown out and takes time to adjust. But we can speed up the adjustment by holding the Element of the Element points of each meridian in turn. These are also known as the Horary points. These points encourage the Qi tide to change as we travel, and we arrive at our destination more in sync with local time.

How to treat yourself

When you are in the departure lounge waiting for your flight, set a clock to the time at your destination. I suggest you use a 24 hour clock otherwise you may become confused. If the country where you are going to has daylight saving, take this off as we need to set the clock to local sun time. For the duration of your flight, you will hold the Horary point of the meridian whose time shows on your destination clock, first on the left side of the body, then on the right for 2 to 3 minutes.

The Chinese Clock

 For a great chart with pictures of point locations, created by Mary Golob, click here.
For those who have good anatomical knowledge, here are more precise descriptions of the locations.

Time at destination Point Location
3 – 5 am LU 8 1 cun proximal to the wrist  in depression at base of styloid process
5 – 7 am LI 1 0.1 cun from the radial corner of nailbed of index finger
7 – 9 am ST 36 3 cun below the patella and a finger width lateral to crest of tibia
9 – 11 am SP 3 Medial side of foot proximal to head of first metatarsal
11am –1pm HE 8 On palm where little finger rests when a fist is made
1 – 3 pm SI 5 Ulnar side of wrist in depression between ulna and triquetral bone
3 – 5 pm BL 66 Lateral side of foot at the base of the little toe
5 – 7 pm KI 10 Medial end of popliteal crease between tendons; locate flexed
7 – 9 pm HP 8 On palm where middle finger rests when a fist is made
9 – 11 pm TH 6 3 cun proximal to the wrist between ulna and radius
11pm-1am GB 41 Dorsum of foot at the junction of 4th & 5th metatarsals
1 – 3 am LV 1 0.1 cun from the medial corner of nailbed of big toe

Let’s say you are leaving Sydney at 10 pm and flying to London which is 10 time zones earlier. Set your clock to 12 Noon. This lies in the Heart section of the Chinese Clock, therefore you hold Heart 8 in the palms of your hands. You need to hold the points at least once during the two hour period, and more will be helpful.

Keeping an eye on the London clock, somewhere between 1 pm and 3pm, hold the Small Intestine Horary points, SI 5. Proceed around the clock, holding the relevant points every two hours until you arrive at your destination. Ideally you should continue holding points for 24 hours after you arrive, but since you’ll be sleeping some of that time, it’s ok to miss some.

Feel free to let me know how it goes for you. Safe and healthy travels!

Abundant Splendour

Fenglong ~ Abundant Splendour ~ Stomach 40


Last weekend saw the completion of the Level 2 Five Element Acupressure course in Adelaide. Part of the material was an Earth treatment to support seasonal transitions, especially for people who struggle physically or psycho-emotionally when seasons are changing. Upon calculation, we found that the transition period from winter to spring has already begun.

The Neijing tells us that the Earth energies come to the fore in the last 18 days of each season. The beginning of spring in the southern hemisphere is at the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, namely August 6th. Which means the transition period began on July 18th. This might seem awfully early to be thinking about spring, but already we are noticing the budding of trees, the lengthening of days and the odd warm one. Spring is in the wings. Personally I am noticing a slight irritability tugging at my liver, my spring alarm clock.

The Earth Element acts as a mediating influence, a power to connect. Using Earth acupoints at a change of season greatly supports a person’s capacity to move smoothly with the change and avoid struggle, discomfort and illness.

In the past we’ve looked at some excellent points that support transitions, including Stomach 36, Spleen 3, and Spleen 4. Let’s look at another one that can be used in any combination with these points.

Fenglong ~ Abundant Splendour is an important point of the Stomach meridian. As the luo-connecting point of Stomach, Fenglong connects to its partner Spleen and balances Qi between the two, harmonising the yin and yang of Earth.

It is the single most important point for clearing phlegm from the body. Phlegm arises when the Spleen’s function of transportation of fluids is impaired and fluid congeals. As the connecting point, Fenglong activates the Spleen’s transporting function and so treats phlegm related conditions, particularly of the digestive and respiratory systems: cough with mucous, bronchitis, pneumonia, constipation, nausea, vomiting, gastric pain, cysts, lipomas and other lumps under the skin.

But it is for its effects in the psycho-emotional realm that Fenglong is renowned in the Five Element tradition. It helps a person who is feeling scarcity in her life to reconnect with a sense of abundance. The character feng depicts the threshing floor at harvest time, brimming with grain, while long indicates a multiplication manyfold of this abundance. Together they portray the magnificent, splendorous bounty of Heaven and Earth.

Ultimately the feeling of abundance has nothing to do with how much we possess, for abundance is not a physical state, but a condition of the mind and of the spirit. When Earth energies are balanced, there is a natural recognition of the abundance that the universe offers us: the bounty and the beauty of nature, the love and connection we share with others, and the simple fact of being alive. Abundant Splendour proclaims these gifts of Earth. It has the capacity to connect us with the truth that we are already the cornucopia of life’s abundance. When we understand that we are a living personification of abundance, there can be deep satisfaction from simply being alive and present to life.

To give your Earth a good turning and raking in preparation for spring, hold ST 40, ST 36, SP 3 and SP 4 in any or all of the 6 possible pairs of points.

Location of Stomach 40

ST 40


The point is on the outside of the leg, half way between the knee crease and the ankle bone and two fingers width lateral to the crest of the tibia bone. Use firm, direct pressure.