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Rubbing the right spots for health

REGULAR and frequent DIY acupressure on a few spots can improve general health and immunity by unblocking energy channels and rebalancing the body's energy. Zhang Qian presses the button.

In Chinese martial arts movies, a fighter just touches a vital spot and immobilizes his (or her) opponent. These magical effects are not achievable in real life, but those key spots on the body - acupuncture points - are not imaginary and useless.

Pressing and rubbing certain acupuncture points (applying acupressure) can often relieve pain and discomfort and boost immunity and general health, according to traditional Chinese medicine.

It is common knowledge in Western medicine that blood runs through arteries and vessels carrying oxygen and nutrition to every muscle, organ, tissue and cell, and removing waste. If circulation is blocked, the body's functions will be impaired and if there's long blockage, the tissue dies.

In traditional Chinese medicine, there's a similar idea that emphasizes the function of qi or energy and jingluo or energy channels.

Qi flows to the organs through energy channels to support body functions, and points on the channel play the role of triggers, according to Dr Jiang Zaifeng of the acupuncture and tuina (Chinese massage) department of Liangcheng Community Hospital.

Pain and illnesses occur when energy channels are blocked so the energy cannot flow freely. Apart from medication to unblock the channels, acupuncture and acupressure therapies based on the theory of energy channels and acupuncture points can also help.

By stimulating acupuncture points, energy and blood are "triggered" to flow more quickly and smoothly, thus helping to unblock channels and ease the problem.

Acupuncture and acupressure are widely used for muscle-related problems, such as lack of mobility, soreness and pain. It can also help with problems such as indigestion, headache and painful menstruation.

Acupuncture with needles is used to relieve colds, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, vomiting, rheumatism, tendonitis, heart palpitations and many other problems. It can also help in weight loss and efforts to end smoking.

If problems are serious, patients should see a doctor about acupuncture and other therapy.

But DIY acupressure on certain key points can help ailing, sub-healthy and healthy people boost immunity and prevent sickness by reinforcing and balancing energy.

The points most often recommended for DIY acupressure are zu san li (outside of the knee on the upper calf), tai xi (generally the back of the ankle) and shen men (inside of wrist).

According to a Chinese saying, pressing on zu san li often is more reinforcing than eating a nutritious hen.

"Acupuncture therapy requires precise placement of needles on acupuncture points, while acupressure is not that demanding," says Dr Jiang. "Pressure on relatively precise area is enough."

Pressing and rubbing with fingers or knuckles for a couple of minutes is the most common method. If the spot feels sensitive, that's probably got the right spot. But not all spots are sensitive to the touch.

Pressing and rubbing does no harm. Knocking or slight pounding along energy channels is an effective and easier way to stimulate energy channels.

But as with any TCM therapy, it must be used regularly and frequently. Dr Jiang suggests DIY acupressure whenever there's time.

Zu san li (literally "foot three li," a Chinese unit of measure)

Zu san li is one of the most frequently pressed acupuncture points for general health. It's on the stomach energy meridian and pressure reinforces stomach energy, aiding digestion.

TCM holds that the stomach and spleen (the digestive system) are the foundation of acquired constitution and that stimulating stomach energy can ease problems in the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, urinary and reproductive systems. And generally strengthen the body and boost immunity.


See photo. It's about 3cm below the sunken spot on the outer knee and one finger's width lateral from the anterior border of the tibia down a bit.


Helps reinforce deficient qi and blood, especially in the stomach; eases most digestive problems.

It helps clear disorders along the course of the energy channel, such as breast problems (but it's important to see a doctor for breast issues, don't DIY) and lower leg pain. It supports lung function in cases of asthma and wheezing.

Shen men (literally "spirit gate")

Serving as the gate of spirit, shen men helps guard the mind and heart, affecting both psychological and physical conditions. It can help in cases of insomnia, anxiety and sleeplessness. Seeing a psychologist may help and so may pressing and rubbing shen men.


See photo. Generally inside of the wrist. At the wrist crease, on the radial side of the flexor carpi ulnaris tendon, between the ulna and the pisiform bones.)


Helps reinforce heart, qi, blood, and balance yin and yang energy. It is said to help with emotional issues, insomnia, confused thinking and anxiety.

It can also strengthen heart function and help relieve problems like irregular heart beat, heart pounding and pain (see a doctor before doing any DIY on your heart).

Tai xi (literally "great ravine")

As indicated by its name, tai xi serves is a reservoir that provides "water" to the body. As TCM holds that the element of the kidneys (each organ has an element) is water, deficient kidney energy is the main cause of "water" deficiency in the body.

When there is lack of moisture, "heat" and "fire" will thrive and cause problems like insomnia, thirst, constipation, dray and dark skin.

Kidney also serves as the reproductive foundation. Reinforcing kidney energy by pressing tai xi reinforces all the energy needed by the body.


See photo. In the depression midway between the tip of the medial malleolus and the attachment of the Achilles tendon.


Helps reinforce qi in kidneys and relieve yin ("cold" energy) or yang ("hot" energy) deficiencies. It relieves problems caused by yin/yang deficiencies such as asthma, chronic sore throat, dizziness, ringing in the ears, headache, anxiety, insomnia, lower back pain and ankle and heel pain.


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