When your head is pounding or your back/knee/shoulder feels like its ageing faster than the rest of you, reaching for pain tablets is an almost automatic reflex.
But if you’re trying to avoid popping anti-inflammatories for a medical reason (they’re seriously tough on your stomach lining), or just general wellness, the old “grin and bear it” approach can make life mighty unpleasant.
Enter stage right acupressure – a DIY treatment that involves massaging specific points that correspond with different energy channels on the body. “There are 12 meridians and over 600 acupuncture points on these meridians that affect the emotions, spirit and physical body,” says acupuncturist and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) specialist Dr Emma Quine. We asked her to share her favourite spots to help relieve aches, pains and migraines. Try applying firm (but not painful) pressure to the points below for two to three minutes at a time. Breathe deeply and concentrate on your breath as you hold each point.
Best for headaches
The LI4 point is located in the webbing between the thumb and forefinger. "Find the highest point on the fleshy mound when the thumb and index finger are close together. Use a pincer grip to hold this point," says Emma. "Research has shown that acupuncture on this point acts as a powerful analgesic, so it's a great spot to help ease headaches and migraines.”
Best for body aches and pains
This point (GB34) is known as the master point for relaxing all the tendons and ligaments in the body, so it will take the edge off a weary or sore body and help you relax. It's located on the outside edge of your lower leg, just below the knee. "To locate it, sit in a seat and slide your hands down the side of your thighs past the knees and you will arrive at a bony protuberance, which is the head of the fibula," says Emma. "If you go to the front of the protuberance and down about 1cm you will find a depression there, roughly the size of a 10 cent piece. Press both sides with your thumbs for a few minutes a couple of times a day."
Best for general pain
The LR3 point taps into the liver meridian. "This point is located on the top of your foot about two finger widths above the space where your big toe and the second toe join," says Emma. "The point may feel tender to touch and will help resolve physical stagnation and pain."
Best for frontal migraines
The BL2 channel is the longest on the human body, boasting no less than 62 points! "If you have a frontal migraine, placing pressure on these points for one to two minutes a few times a day may help to shift it," says Emma. "Find it by pressing on the small indents at the inside edge of your eyebrows."
Best for neck pain
This is a great point to help clear neck tension, headaches and migraines. If you are prone to flare-ups at the back of the neck, try pressing these points every day to help prevent migraines. Regular acupuncture tune-ups will help too, as well as cupping to release tense muscles. "Place your hands at the base of your skull, near the spine. Slide out about three finger-breadths and you will slip into a hollow nook on each side," says Emma ."Tilt your head forwards and press both thumbs into the points for two to three minutes and take long, slow deep breaths."
Best for migraines
"The points on the feet are the most powerful points to treat problems of the head," says Emma. Find this point by (known as GB41) by sliding your index finger up between the bones of the fourth and fifth (pinky) toe. "When you reach a really tender spot, that's the spot," says Emma. "It’s three finger widths up from the toe crease. Press the tender point for a couple of minutes a few times a day."