Tag Archives: immune system

Acupressure Work with Cancer Patients

This year it is expected that there will be about 140,000 new cancer diagnoses among Australians, representing about 0.6% of the population. As we age, the chances of being diagnosed go up, and for those of us who reach the age of 85, fully half will have been diagnosed with some form of cancer.

For healthcare practitioners, this means that some of the clients we see will be either living with cancer or in remission from it. The most common forms of cancer are prostate, breast, bowel, melanoma and lung. These five forms account for 60% of all cases.

For all of us, contact with someone living with cancer is common. Who has not had a friend or family member touched by cancer?

Western medicine has a system of treatments for cancer that usually involve surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These treatments are saving and extending lives. However these treatments impose great strains upon the body, particularly on the immune system. Complementary therapies are well placed to assist these treatments by supporting the immune system, detoxifying the body, and accelerating the healing processes.

Acupressure is one of form of complementary therapy that can provide powerful support to those living with cancer. It addresses the energy system that underlies all organs, systems and functions in the body as well as the emotional, psychological and spiritual levels of human life.

My senior students and I are currently engaged in a program at the Cancer Care Centre in Adelaide in which we are working with clients who are currently living with or are in remission from cancer. Some of these people are in the final stages of their lives. It is a great privilege to work with people who are facing this most challenging of life experiences.

In preparing for this program, I wrote a short paper suggesting some of the ways we can work with such clients. I include a modified version of these notes here so that others can make use of this powerful energy work to support their clients, friends and loved ones.

Where acupoints are noted, there are links to previous blogs where available. Where there is no link, you can find point locations with an internet search.


Acupressure is a very gentle modality and there are few contraindications. But we need to check first if there are any tumours, sites of recent surgery, radiation burns or other conditions that mean we can’t touch a certain area. Before you put your hands on your client, find out if there are any such areas of the body that need to be avoided, or where work is not wanted.


This style of work lends itself to working lightly. A light touch is the first place to begin. It may become clear that a firmer pressure is appropriate, but begin lightly. In areas where there are tumours or there has been surgery, it may be better to avoid touch at all and work above the body with the open palm over the point. Since the meridians are bilateral, you can always work on the opposite side of the body to affect an area which you can’t touch.

Kindness and empathy

Someone who is or has been living with cancer faces a challenging future. Try to imagine how that might be. All kinds of emotional responses might arise: fear, anger, regret and so on. Work from your heart as much as you can.


Listen carefully to your client. Follow any requests for something to be done or not to be done. Try to listen from your heart rather than your head. While we might think of a great treatment pattern, a simple touch of a single point may feel like the right thing.

Meridians that may need work

Anyone who has undergone or is undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy will have a challenged immune system. Triple Heater work can help to strengthen the defensive Qi, especially TH 5, CV 5 and BL 22. Kidney will also need lots of attention, including BL 23, GB 25 and KI 3. Spleen is also involved in immunity, so consider SP 3, SP 4, SP 6, SP 21, BL 20 and LV 13. Liver work will help with detoxification, especially LV 3. For the nausea associated with chemotherapy, HP 6 is the classic point.

Another approach might be to work with the Extraordinary Vessels via their master points. These vessels act as reservoirs of Qi, linking the meridian pathways into a large web-like system. Choose vessels based on their trajectories in relation to the location of cancers.

Master Point Vessel Trajectory
SI 3 Governor On the midline, up the back and over the head
LU 7 Conception On the midline from the chin to the perineum
BL 62 Yang Motility Outer sides of body, shoulders, neck and head
KI 6 Yin Motility Inside of leg, abdomen and chest
TH 5 Yang Linking Outer sides of body, shoulders, neck and head
HP 6 Yin Linking Inside of leg, abdomen and chest
GB 41 Girdling Around the waist
SP 4 Penetrating Abdomen and chest including all internal organs

Specific kinds of cancer

Breast cancer is common. Points that may serve include KI 22 and HP 2 (exit/entry points), Stomach and Kidney points of the chest, CV 17 and LU 1. If there has been removal of lymph nodes, then Spleen points will be helpful.

For other organs, use source, mu and shu points of the related organs. For locations of these points, see my article Addressing Emotions in Clinical Practice. Also consider the paired organ. For example for colon cancer, include Large Intestine and Lung points.

Working above and below site

The presence of cancer in the body is an indication of a block in the flow of Qi in the body. One way of working is to choose acupoints that are above and below the site (or former site) of a tumour. Look for acupuncture point charts and hold the points that are immediately above and below the site. This will encourage the normal flow of Qi through the area. This technique can also be used where there has been surgery.

Emotional connections

Use your knowledge of the Five Element emotions to make point choices that relate to the emotional state of your client. For example, help to settle fear with BL 23, BL 52 and KI 3. For depression, consider working with Liver points especially LV 14 and BL 47.

Also consider the emotion that relates to the affected organ. With someone who is suffering from lung or colon cancer, you might check out whether grief, loss or regret are a significant part of the person’s affect, in which case BL 42 with LU 1 would be helpful. Breast cancer is often associated with absence of love, or experience of betrayal. BL 43, HP 7 and CV 17 are useful in these cases.


If you yourself are the client, you can work on yourself. While it is better if someone else works on you, you can still get good benefits from self-acupressure. See my previous blog How Effective is Self-Acupressure?

Start anywhere

As soon as we begin to make an intervention into the energetic field, changes begin to happen as the client’s own inner doctor responds. While an accurate assessment and a targeted treatment will be of greater benefit, holding any point, if done with the overarching intention of healing, will be of great service.


Guarding the Frontier

CustomsIn recent posts, we explored two of the officials that protect the Heart, namely the Heart Protector* and the Small Intestine. The third of these officials is the Triple Heater. It is the outermost of the Fire officials, concerned with protecting the borders of the kingdom. This relates to protection of the exterior of  the body and to negotiating social and societal relationships.

At the physical level, the Triple Heater maintains homeostasis in the body. In particular it is the thermostat, keeping the body’s temperature in the Goldilocks zone, neither too hot nor too cold. It regulates conditions in the three burning spaces (lower abdomen, upper abdomen and chest) for which it is named, and maintains the crucial balance between Fire (yang) and Water (yin). It plays a role in the immune system, keeping harmony among all other officials, coordinating the functions of all the organs and ensuring harmonious interaction between them.

At the psycho-emotional level, Triple Heater manages social relationships, deciding who in the world it is safe to befriend, who can be trusted to enter the kingdom of the Heart. In this sense it sets boundaries, restricting the entry of people who may harm us, and guiding our own appropriate social behaviour. In this arena, Triple Heater works closely with Heart Protector which we looked at previously.

When Triple Heater falls out of balance, there can be disruption to the heating system of the body, causing us to feel very hot or very cold, and sometimes both in rapid succession. A person might hate the winter and love the summer, or vice versa. At an emotional level, it can make for difficulty in distinguishing between social and intimate relationships, falling in love quickly and repeatedly, behaving in socially inappropriate ways, even becoming an exhibitionist.

The point Waiguan – Outer Frontier Gate is perhaps the most important point on the meridian. It is effective for keeping balance and harmony between the Heart and the wider world, resolving conflicts between the inner and outer. It connects to the Heart Protector meridian through HP 5 and is often used with it to balance the channel with its yin partner.

Another of its roles is as the master point of the Yang Linking Vessel which rules the exterior of the whole body and connects to all of the yang meridians. Therefore it can be used for all external pathogenic invasions from wind, cold, heat and damp, as well as fever and many types of headaches.

Waiguan treats ear disorders including tinnitus, deafness, earache and itching ears. It is a also good for pain and stiffness of the neck, shoulder, elbow, arm and hand.

Forearm yourself against external invasion from disease and guard your heart from harmful influences by strengthening the guard at the Outer Frontier Gate.

Location of Triple Heater 5

TW 5 bThe point lies on the back of the forearm between the ulna and radius bones, 2 cun (approximately 3 fingers width) above the wrist where it bends when flexed.

Hold the point for 2 to 3 minutes or until you feel the Qi move. Treat the left side first, then the right.




* In previous posts I used the term Pericardium; I have chosen to change to the term Heart Protector as this is more evocative of its functions.