From herbal tea blends to facial cupping, the influence of Chinese medicine in modern wellness practices is more mainstream than ever before — which also means it's become far more accessible. And while some of the elements may still seem a bit out of your reach or your comfort zone, you might be surprised at how adaptable others are for anyone's lifestyle. Case in point: There are a handful of key acupressure points that you can activate yourself to get practically instant relief from stress, headaches, and more — and you can do so from anywhere at anytime.
While you'll definitely need the assistance of a licensed professional for some of Chinese medicine's popular practices (like acupuncture and fire cupping), as well as discussing appropriate herbal supplements, acupressure is something that can be done on your own — with the proper guidance. Think of acupressure as acupuncture without the needles (which also makes it a great alternative to those who find it tough to tolerate the latter). Both practices are based on the philosophy that by accessing different external points of the body, you can encourage the movement of your life energy (or "qi") which in turn promotes better health, both mentally and physically.
So while acupressure is considered a type of massage, you don't need to hit up your local spa to get the benefits. In fact, with a few key points in mind you can even de-stress at work from your desk, unwind while watching TV on your couch, or wherever you happen to be. To find out a couple go-to spots to add gentle pressure for nearly instant benefits, read ahead for seven expert-recommended ones, then go ahead and take five, because self-care.
The Shen Men, or Spirit Gate, is located in the curve of the upper inner ear. "[This ear point] is the best point to tranquilize the mind and allow connection between the mind, body, and spirit," says Sarah Adcock, licensed acupuncturist and owner of YZ Acupuncture & Wellness. "This point is best stimulated by digging in and applying pressure."
Also known as your third eye, the Yin Tag point is located just between the inner edges of your eyebrows. "This spot calms the mind, releases emotion, reduces pain, and helps with immunity — bringing an inner smile," explains Adcock. "To activate this point you can massage in circular motion or rub upward."
"Shen Shu are two points found on the low back, level with the second lumbar vertebrae, practically just where the index fingers fall when you put your hands around your waist — an inch and a half on either side of the spine," explains Adcock. "These points can reduce stress by balancing the adrenals and boosting your natural energy and focus. Massage these with circular motions."
To locate your Tai Chong, find the point between your first and second toes, about one and a half inch toward the foot from the webbing. "This point helps to smooth out the flow of qi in the body," Adcock says. "When we get stressed, the qi starts to stagnate or to move out of its normal pattern. By rubbing this point, which is usually pretty sore on people, you help to correct the flow of qi, reduce stress, and stop headaches and induce a sense of wellbeing."
And the acupuncturist adds that you can double down on stress-relieving benefits by massaging this in conjunction with another point on the body, the He Gu, which is between the thumb and pointer finger. "To stimulate these points you can push them away from the body or just press them downward for a minute," she instructs.
While Jamie Bacharach of Acupuncture Jeursalem notes that the Wangu can be a tricky point to find, the benefits make this one a must-try. "The easiest way to find it is to place your finger in the crevice behind your ear lobe," she says. "Then, glide your finger in a straight line towards the back of your head. As soon as you start moving your finger, you will feel a 'hill' that is behind your ear. On the other side of this 'hill,' our point can be found. It is also used for treating occipital headaches, insomnia, and hearing issues."
The Nei Guan is located on the inside of your wrist, just above the joint between the two tendons of your forearm. "[Nei Guan] is a great point for relieving stress, improved breathing and for calming palpitations," says Bacharach. "Bonus: It's a great point for nausea, especially morning sickness in pregnancy! This point can be massaged or you can buy a bracelet that has a hard plastic ball that is designed specifically to press on this point."
Located on the palm of your hand, Bacharach notes that the Shao Fu can be easily found by making a loose fist, then tracing the pinky finger to where it makes contact with the palm. "While this point is great for calming anxiety, palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, and mood swings, the number one thing that it is great at doing is treating migraines," she explains. "Massaging this point should immediately lower the intensity of the migraine, if not cure it completely."