Relieving anxiety with acupressure, a form of traditional Chinese medicine

Acupressure may provide temporary relief from anxiety symptoms during these stressful times.
Acupressure may provide temporary relief from anxiety symptoms during these stressful times.PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

SINGAPORE - As the global Covid-19 pandemic ravages through countries, the mental toll on people is often forgotten as healthcare staff race to save those infected with the coronavirus.

Apart from taking precautions with personal hygiene, managing anxiety and fear is as important in coping with the changes and challenges brought on by the fight against the coronavirus.

Acupressure, a form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), may provide temporary relief from anxiety symptoms during these stressful times.

TCM physician Ong Fang Ying at Raffles Chinese Medicine says: "Stress causes energy blockages within the meridians of the body (energy channels) and tension in the muscle and fascia (sheet of connective tissues). Acupressure is the application of pressure on crucial healing points called acupoints or meridians.

"This stimulates energy flow and blood circulation and also releases tension within the body, aiding in one's relaxation."

According to TCM principles, acupoints correspond to various vital organs in the body.

Ms Amanda Chua, an acupuncturist at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) Sports Medicine Centre, says: "Stimulating these points would improve blood flow, release tension and allow healing energy to circulate throughout the body, boosting the body's self-healing and restoration processes."

However, she adds that many people believe acupoints are "just old wives' tales".

But she says studies have shown that "micro vessels and nerve endings accumulate at acupoints and when performed correctly, acupressure is an effective form of therapy used to correct functional imbalances and relax muscles".

Acupuncturist Melissa Ong, who also works at KTPH Sports Medicine Centre, says acupressure can function as "a good complement to existing treatment modalities like painkillers and physiotherapy".

She adds: "It could serve as an alternative, though slightly weaker one, to acupuncture if individuals are fearful of needles or do not have immediate access to it."


Ms Sheryl Tay, a TCM physician at Pulse TCM Clinic, says massaging acupoints can help to regulate the nervous system and aid in calming the mind.

"They also help in restoring the imbalances in our body, to prevent the onset of other symptoms like poor appetite and disrupted sleep."

She adds that while knowledge of acupressure is still limited and might not yet be widely accepted, she sees a growing trend among the young.

"Millennials, especially, tend to seek treatments that are natural or can be done on their own, hence acupressure might be of interest to them".

Senior acupuncturist Qiao Tian Ru at the National University Hospital says acupressure is popular as a complementary self-healing technique because of its long and established history in China.

"In addition, it is non-invasive, can be self-applied and is simple to learn and use, with hardly any side effect," she adds.

The acupuncturists from KTPH Sports Medicine Centre share a three-minute acupressure routine that can be done while sitting in a chair any time of the day to help relieve anxiety.


Before performing this acupressure routine, get into a comfortable position.

Begin with acupressure point Feng Chi, located at the top of the back of the neck, and work your way down the body to He Gu, located on the dorsum of the hand, and finally to Zu San Li, located below the knee cap.

• Spend 30 seconds for each point, on each side of the body.

• Apply firm pressure in circular motion while breathing steadily. If you are pressing on the correct point, you should feel some soreness.

Do this relaxing three-minute routine once in the morning after breakfast and once before you sleep.

But before starting on any form of acupressure, if you have any medical condition, do check with your doctor or TCM physician if acupressure is safe for you.


Acupressure point Feng Chi

1. Locate the point at the top of the back of the neck.

2. The point is at the depression at the base of the skull.

Feng Chi means "wind pool" in English. According to TCM theory, wind pathogens are responsible for ailments such as the common cold, headaches and body aches.

Stimulating Feng Chi can help expel wind pathogens out of the body.

It has been demonstrated in studies that stimulating Feng Chi could also reduce the pain and frequency of headaches in adults with episodic migraine.

Acupressure point He Gu

1. The point is located on the dorsum of the hand.

2. The point is approximately in the middle of the second metacarpal bone.

Note: This point should not be stimulated during pregnancy.

He Gu, which means "joining valley" in English, refers to one of the most commonly used acupoints and has been studied extensively through clinical research.

According to TCM theory, healing energy and blood aggregate at this acupoint, hence stimulating He Gu will bring many health benefits. Stimulation of He Gu has been proven to be effective for neck pain, headache and even stress.

One study showed that acupuncture on He Gu, Zu San Li and other points reduces stress and anxiety levels in both the young and the elderly.

Stimulating these acupoints has also been found to increase the body's levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, also referred to as the feel-good hormones.

Acupressure point Zu San Li

1. Bend your knee 90 degrees.

2. Locate the two small depressions on your kneecap.

3. Place four fingers below the outer depression of your knee cap.

4. The point is located at the bottom of your little finger.

Zu San Li is commonly referred to as the "point of longevity".

According to TCM principles, Zu San Li is located along the stomach meridian and stimulating it will help strengthen the digestive system.

A strong digestive system will help replenish the blood and healing energy, hence boosting immunity.

A team of researchers from Japan found that stimulating Zu San Li and other points could help regulate the immune system.

A study published in journal Neuroscience Letters also proved that stimulating Zu San Li and other points boost lymphocyte proliferation in the elderly.

Stress decreases the body's lymphocytes, which are the white blood cells that help the body fight against infections. The lower your lymphocyte level, the weaker your body's ability to fend off illnesses.