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Can’t sleep? Stressed? How acupressure foot massage and acupuncture can help

Can’t sleep? Stressed? How acupressure foot massage and acupuncture can help
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How traditional Chinese medicine – TCM – uses acupressure foot massage and acupuncture to improve sleep, relieve stress

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the feet are considered one of the most crucial parts of the human body. This is reflected in the Chinese saying, “All diseases arise from cold, and cold enters the body through the feet”.

TCM views the body as an interconnected system in which energy, or qi, flows through a network of meridians, or pathways. The feet, with their numerous acupressure points, are seen as gateways to influencing the body’s internal organs and systems.

In stimulating these points by applying pressure through acupuncture, practitioners believe they can promote the smooth flow of qi to enhance blood circulation and support the body’s natural healing processes.

Origins

The significance of the feet to overall health is highlighted in a foundational TCM text, the Huangdi Neijing (The Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor), which dates back to about 100 BC.

According to this text, our feet have more than 60 acupoints, each corresponding to a specific part of the body.

The Yongquan acupoint. In TCM, the kidney meridian is believed to start at Yongquan. Photo: Shutterstock

Professor Yu Jin, from the Clinical Medical College of Acupuncture, Moxibustion and Rehabilitation at Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine in China’s Guangdong province, says the meridians are like an information network, with the acupoints equivalent to the nodes on the network.

“When you get on one node, you can connect to other places,” he says.

Foot acupuncture cannot only alleviate foot pain but also address ailments originating in other organs, he says.

Applying pressure to the Yongquan, or “gushing spring” point, may alleviate stress. Photo: Shutterstock

However, an acupressure foot massage, which targets the same energy points and meridians as acupuncture but uses pressure instead of needles, can also deliver positive effects.

You can achieve these benefits with a daily acupressure foot massage at home. Focusing on the following four points may deliver some relief.

1. Yongquan

Yongquan, or the “gushing spring” point, is found on the sole of your foot, about a third of the way from your toes to your heel, directly below the second and third toes at the centre of the ball of your foot.

In TCM, the kidney meridian is believed to start at yongquan, with qi flowing from this point like water from a spring and gradually spreading throughout the body.

Applying pressure to the taichong, or “great surge”, point may offer multiple benefits. Photo: Shutterstock

Regularly massaging yongquan is thought to produce a sedating effect and help manage a range of stress-related issues.

2. Taichong

Taichong, or the “great surge” point, is an important point on the liver meridian.

It is located on the top of the foot, in the depression between the big toe and the second toe, about two finger-widths from the webbing between them in the direction of the ankle.

3. Sanyinjiao

Sanyinjiao, or the “three yin intersection” point, is the point where the spleen, liver, and kidney meridians converge. It is on the inside of the leg, about four finger widths above the inside of the ankle.

Applying pressure on the sanyinjiao, or the “three yin intersection”, may help you get a better night’s sleep. Photo: Shutterstock

The TCM concept of yin and yang suggests there are opposing but interconnected forces that affect our health.

TCM holds that at night, the body’s yang energy – defined as positive, active and masculine – transitions into yin, which is negative, passive and feminine. This allows us to drift into a restful slumber. If yin fails to contain yang, this can lead to insomnia and restless dreams.

Applying pressure to the sanyinjiao point can help alleviate these symptoms by unblocking the convergence of the three yin meridians.

Sanyinjiao is also a traditional acupoint for gynaecological issues. Regularly stimulating this point can help balance hormones, alleviate menstrual problems – and induce labour.

4. Zusanli

Located above the feet, zusanli or “leg three miles” is an acupoint along the stomach meridian that may help boost overall vitality.

It is on the outer side of the lower leg, about four finger-widths below the kneecap and one finger-width from the shinbone.

Massaging the zusanli or “three leg mile” point is thought to be effective in relieving depression, anxiety, and stress. Photo: Shutterstock

By putting your hand on the outer side of the leg over your knee with your fingers facing down, you can find the point between the tips of your fourth and fifth fingers.

Acupressure massage safety tips

  1. Wait for at least an hour after eating to do acupressure to prevent disrupting digestion.

  2. Adjust the pressure to your comfort level to avoid muscle or skin damage.

  3. Clean your feet before and after the massage, especially around the reflex points, to prevent bacterial infections.

  4. Limit each session to 15-30 minutes to avoid overworking the muscles.

  5. Pregnant women, people with heart disease and those with high blood pressure should seek professional guidance before performing acupressure massage.

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