Acupressure For Common Ailments

Acupressure For Common Ailments

by Chris Jarmey, John Tindall, John Tindall
A GAIA ORIGINAL Finally, the remarkable healing power of acupresssure is made accessible to everyone. This book shows you how the simple application of finger pressure to specific points on the surface of the body stimulates subtle energies that can alleviate many common ailments.

Acupressure for Common Ailments demystifies the Oriental origins of this


A GAIA ORIGINAL Finally, the remarkable healing power of acupresssure is made accessible to everyone. This book shows you how the simple application of finger pressure to specific points on the surface of the body stimulates subtle energies that can alleviate many common ailments.

Acupressure for Common Ailments demystifies the Oriental origins of this therapy. It enables you to treat conditions that may otherwise require sophisticated forms of drug treatment. Clear illustrations make the body's pressure points easy to locate.

This self-help guide enables anyone, from a complete beginner to practicing therapists, to treat ailments from arthritis to asthma, and other health problems such as sinusitis, sore eyes, colds and influenza, indigestion, nausea and acidity, menstrual pain, cystitis and sciatica, depression, anxiety, and shock. It will appeal to all those who want to implement the healing powers of the body without recourse to the prescription pad.

* Learn how to use the body's natural healing processes

* Understand the importance of the holistic approach to healing

* Replace drug therapy with gentle healing techniques

* Boost the immune system and relieve ailments such as postviral syndrome, hemorrhoids, and earache

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Chapter 1


Understanding why acupressure works requires an appreciation of tile Chinese system of diagnosis and treatment, where the fundamental approach to medicine bears little resemblance to that in the West.

Oriental medicine and Western medicine are able to treat the same conditions, but practitioners from East and West diagnose an ailment in completely different ways. Western doctors try to isolate an agent such as a virus, seen as the direct cause of an ailment, and then aim to eradicate it. Where the cause is not so simple or clear, as with the degenerative diseases, for example, Western medicine will tackle only the symptoms. Oriental practitioners, by contrast, look for a complete picture of their patient. This is known as the "pattern of disharmony". This pattern is built up by close observation of the patient's complexion, general demeanour, colour of urine, voice quality, and so on (see p. 21). The patient also answers a series of questions, including how external influences such as eating, touch, or heat affect the symptoms. A total picture is produced, and the diagnosis then made. The information in this book will enable you to understand how this is done. It takes many years to master the art of diagnosis, but you can offer helpful treatment by looking up a symptom, such as headache, asthma, or indigestion (see Part Two, Treating common ailments), and following the suggested treatment plan. These treatments are designed to cover the most likely causes of the symptoms.

The most fundamental concept of Oriental medicine is that your body, mind, and spirit are all interdependent. They affect one another at alllevels: an ailment of the mind will be reflected in the body; similarly, any physical symptoms must affect the emotions and the psyche. The Oriental doctor does not see a physical ailment in isolation, but as a reflection of disharmony within your whole being. In addition to treating you, the doctor would also recommend that you consider the way you live, and evaluate your own weaknesses that are disrupting your body's equilibrium. Thus acupressure treatment helps to restore the harmony of body, mind, and spirit.

The functions of the organs

This holistic approach in Oriental medicine is also seen in the wide interpretation given to the functions of the organs. For example, the anatomical organ "kidney" referred to in Oriental medicine has a much broader meaning than in Western medicine. An Oriental doctor takes into account the work of the kidney not only in water metabolism, but also in providing a link between sources of energy and growth, the bones and brain, willpower and memory. For this reason, the Oriental medical concept will be presented with an initial capital letter -- Kidney -- to differentiate it from the strict anatomical meaning used by Western doctors. Similarly, an initial capital letter for other organs indicates a wider connotation. You will find other terms throughout this book that also take an initial capital letter. Oriental medicine interprets these all more widely than in the West.

The importance of Energy

The flow of vital Energy is essential to our health and fundamental to the practice of acupressure. The Chinese call this Energy "Qi", or "Chi". Qi supplies our Organs, Blood, and other Body Fluids, as well as the Mind. It is also responsible for the life processes, from conception through birth and growth, until death. When your body is in good health, your Qi flows abundantly and smoothly. If your Qi becomes deficient or blocked in any way, disease may result. Acupressure can unblock congested Qi, strengthen weak Qi, and calm overactive Qi.

The Channels

According to Oriental theory Qi circulates along Channels close to the body's surface. Many Channels have been identified, 12 of which link points that are connected to a particular Organ in the body. The Channels are named after the Organ to which they are linked -- Liver Channel, Gall Bladder Channel, Large Intestine Channel, and so on. Located along these Channels are the specific points, known as pressure points, where you can most easily manipulate Qi using acupressure (see p. 20). By applying pressure to these points you can unblock, strengthen, or calm the flow of Qi, depending on the technique used (see p. 29). For example, there is a pressure point located four finger widths below your kneecap, outside the tibia (or shin bone), known as Stomach 36, on the Channel related to your Stomach. Correct pressure on this point will strengthen your Stomach and Spleen and aid digestion.

Yin and Yang

Good health depends on the smooth flow of Qi along the Channels, and this in turn requires the body and mind to be in harmony. A balance in all the aspects of your personality and of your physical body will provide this harmony. The Chinese use the idea of Yin and Yang to express this idea of balance. Yin originally meant the shady side of a slope. It is associated with such qualities as cold, rest, responsiveness, passivity, darkness, interiority, downwardness, inwardness, decrease, and femininity. Yang, by contrast, originally referred to the sunny side or a slope. It implies brightness, and is associated with qualities such as heat, stimulation, movement, activity, excitement, vigour, light, exteriority, upwardness, outwardness, increase, and masculinity. Yin and Yang are complementary opposites (see p. 17). Everything in the universe has both Yin and Yang qualities -- nothing is completely one or the other. It is the interaction between these two opposite forces that creates Qi. If your body Energy is well balanced your Qi will have both Yin and Yang aspects. If the balance of Yin and Yang qualities in any aspect of your mind or body is disrupted, then so too will be the Qi in your body, and ill health may result.

Treatment plan

The skilled practitioner diagnoses the Yin and Yang imbalances from the pattern of disharmony and then decides on the treatment plan. First, by recognizing the origin of an ailment in a particular Organ of the body, the practitioner can establish which Channel and points to work on. The summary of correspondences chart on page 21 gives more details of the links between the Organs and the Channels. Second, the practitioner decides on the type of acupressure technique to be used. This depends on whether Qi is blocked, deficient, or in excess. Deficient Qi must be tonified, blocked Qi dispersed, and overactive Qi calmed. When Qi becomes blocked, overactive, or deficient, the symptoms and their link with a particular Organ or part of the body will be recognizable to the trained eye. For example, lethargy is a symptom of a Qi deficiency in the whole body, whereas incontinence or oedema would be the result of a Kidney Qi deficiency. If Kidney Qi were not deficient, but instead blocked or overactive, different symptoms would result. The techniques for tonifying, dispersing, and calming Qi are demonstrated on page 29 and each treatment in the book specifies which technique to use for each pressure point to be treated.

The skill of diagnosing ailments and making treatment plans takes years to master, but even as a beginner you can help restore wellbeing. Part Two, Treating common ailments, gives treatment plans for the most common causes of the conditions and ailments described.

Use this book wisely. Do not try to take over a doctor's role -- help where you can and seek medical advice where you cannot.

Yin and Yang

The formal origins of Oriental medicine lie in the philosophy known as Taoism, first developed by Lao Tzu after about 600BC. At the core of this philosophy is the belief that human beings are part of nature. This means that we experience the constant flow and change of nature, and it is this flow and change that is reality. Many of us try to create permanence in our lives and in the objects around us, but, because reality is in a state of flux, we should instead try to maintain a state of balance within this constant change. It is this balance that gives us a sense of harmony and wellbeing, and is the source of our health.

Chinese medical theory looks for a logic in the patterns of change, and the Yin Yang theory was developed to explain these patterns. The terms Yin and Yang are used to describe the qualities of all things, and their relationship to each other and the universe. Everything contains Yin and Yang elements: Yin and Yang are opposite and complementary.

The balance of Yin Qi and Yang Qi in your body is crucial to your health. Four variations in the Yin Yang balance of Qi are common:

1. Normal balance and quantity of Yin and Yang Qi, which represents health.

2. Normal Yin Qi, but excess Yang Qi, which creates Heat and overactivity.

3. Normal Yang Qi, but deficient Yin Qi, creating Heat (especially at night) and a lack of vitality.

4. Normal Yin Qi, but deficient Yang Qi, creating lethargy, chilliness and poor circulation.

The chart opposite illustrates how the possible imbalances (numbers 2-4 above) may affect your health. The acupressure techniques of calming, tonifying, and dispersing are described on page 29.

From the chart opposite you will see that deficiencies of Yang lead to Yin-type symptoms; deficiencies in Yin will produce Yang-type symptoms. Nothing can be wholly Yin or Yang because there are no fixed extremes in nature. The qualities of Yin and Yang are always relative: warm water, for example, is more Yang than ice, but more Yin than steam. Some of these qualities are outlined in the table opposite.

The causes of disease

For you to get the most out of this book, it will help if you understand how traditional Oriental medicine views the causes of disease. Oriental practitioners do not treat the symptoms of a disease, they look for the underlying causes of it, which are always expressed as disruption of Qi, Yin, and Yang in various parts of the body.

According to Oriental medicine the causes of disease fall into three categories: internal (the emotions); external (the weather), and other causes such as germs or poisons, trauma, diet, and the effects of drugs.

The diseases resulting from emotional causes can be very deep-rooted and are the most difficult to treat. The effects of these causes are described below.

The main external factor -- weather -- is usually only disabling if your resistance is already low. Nowadays, environmental pollution is probably as important a cause of disease as the weather. Some of the specific effects of weather on the body are described opposite.

Ailments caused by germs, diet, and so on are the most easily treated. But the symptoms, if ignored, can produce effects as far-reaching as those due to the weather or emotions.

Recognizing the cause of a symptom will enable you to offer positive advice to support your treatment. Acupressure will help to bring the Yin and Yang elements back into harmony, and restore the circulation of Qi.


Each of the emotions affects the harmony of particular Organs. It is natural to feel sadness, anger, or joy when the occasion demands it, but it is harmful if an emotion such as anger is harboured for years. Since fighting these disturbances creates even more conflict, the Oriental way is to observe them with awareness and allow them to be. Through meditation they will naturally quieten and abate.


Extremes of weather can affect people when their resistance is low. The symptoms are usually similar in nature to the weather that caused them.

The Channels and pressure points

The Channels, also known as Meridians, are the pathways through the body along which Qi flows. There are 12 major Channels, each linked to the function of a particular Organ, plus two extra Channels that run up the torso and head on the front and back (see pp. 22-23). The pathways run in a circuitous route through and around the body. They rise at intervals toward the surface, and dip deeper into the body, leading to the Organs. The Channels also have wider connections that create a network throughout the body, and they are each paired with another Channel. One of the pair has Yin characteristics; the other, Yang (see pp. 16-17). The chart opposite summarizes the main functions of the Organs and presents the Organs and Channels in their pairs, showing which are Yin and which are Yang.

Pressure points

The pressure points, or acupoints, are the gateways to the Channels. Here the Qi in a Channel comes close to the skin and can be manipulated using acupressure. The locations of the pressure points used in this book are illustrated on pages 22-23 and described in the treatment plans in Part Two, and in the Summary of points (pp. 89-91).

The shape of these pressure points (or "tsubos", as they are also known), should not be thought of in physical terms: it can only be described in terms of Energy. Imagine them shaped like a vase, with a neck and mouth narrower than the base. The Japanese character for a pressure point (left) illustrates this shape.

The techniques for applying pressure to the pressure points, to tonify, disperse, or calm the Qi in the Channels, are described on page 29.

The Channels and pressure points Major acupressure points

There are more than 660 pressure points, of which 365 are located on the major Channels illustrated on pages 22-23. You will find 97 of these points demonstrated in Part Two, Treating common ailments. The 12 pressure points shown on the following four pages, however, are the most commonly used in the book. They have very strong and far-reaching connections within the Channel network, which makes them particularly powerful. Therefore pressure applied to these points has long-lasting effects. How to apply pressure is described on page 29.

To help you locate the major pressure points, the illustrations below show the positions of the underlying bone structures. If you use these illustrations in conjunction with those of the major Channels (pp. 22-23), you should find it easy to feel your way into the major pressure points.

Caution Never use LI4 and Sp6 during pregnancy. They can cause miscarriage.

Preparing to treat

For effective acupressure treatment you and your recipient should both feel comfortable and relaxed. If you are tense, your recipient will feel it and become tense also.

To relax, concentrate on relaxing your belly, feeling its normal expansion and contraction as you breathe naturally. When your belly is relaxed, other tensions in your body disappear.

Both practitioner and recipient should wear loose clothing (see p. 5 and p. 9). The recipient should lie on a mat on the floor (see p. 9).


There are three techniques for stimulating the pressure points -- tonifying, dispersing, and calming -- and these are described below. They all work to restore the equilibrium and strengthen the flow of Qi.

The general rule is: tonify weak Qi, disperse blocked or "stagnant" Qi, and calm overactive Qi. The treatment plans in Part Two tell you whether to tonify, calm, or disperse in each case. To find the pressure points, follow the instructions on each page of treatment. You can also refer to the Summary of points on pages 88-91 and the illustrations of the major points on pages 24-27.

Keep your arms relaxed and lean into the points to apply pressure. The points you treat may be sensitive, but the treatment should not be painful. Be guided by your recipient in how much pressure you apply.

You should treat the recommended points on the right and left sides of the body, to gain the full benefit of the treatment. For local complaints, for example, injuries to a specific part of the body, concentrate mainly on the affected side.

For chronic (long-term) conditions, treat the points every other day. For acute (short-term) conditions, treat them twice daily. Continue the treatments until the symptoms have disappeared.

Herbs and oils

Simple preparations of herbs and oils can complement and augment your acupressure treatment. Traditional Chinese treatment often includes Chinese herbs. The herbs and oils recommended in this book are those used in Western herbalism and more readily available in the West. Specific herbs and oils are recommended for each treatment in Part Two of this book.

How to use

Both the herbs and oils can be used in baths and compresses. In addition, you can use herbs to make teas and poultices, and use oils in massage and inhalations. Instructions for their preparation are given opposite. Oils should not be taken internally. Compresses and poultices will help heal both external injuries and internal disorders: apply them to the affected area for periods of 15-20 minutes. Repeat this once daily for long-term conditions, or twice a day for short-term problems. Herb teas are particularly good for internal problems. All the herbs recommended in this book are safe to be drunk as teas. If a particular blend of herbs tastes unpleasant, try omitting some from the mixture. Herb or oil bath preparations, used for 15-20 minutes once or twice daily, can be helpful for both internal and external problems.

Where treatment with smelling salts is recommended, test the pungency of the mixture yourself first by smelling it. Old salts may become too pungent to hold close: hold them about 5cm (2in) away from the recipient.

Use herbs and oils with respect; their effects can be as powerful as any other medicine. Consult a qualified practitioner before giving herbs and oils to children. Additional cautions are given for the use of certain herbs and oils during pregnancy, as they can cause miscarriage. You will find the cautions clearly stated each time the herbs and oils are recommended for use.


You can use dried herbs as teas, baths, compresses, or poultices. These treatments are all mild and are simple and safe to prepare. Where herbs are indicated, mix equal quantities of up to four of the herbs recommended.


You can use essential oils for massage, inhalation, and in baths and compresses. Never use neat essential oils. They should always be diluted in a base oil for massage, or in water for baths, compresses and inhalations. For massage, mix 5-10 drops of each essential oil (up to 4 oils maximum) with 50ml (2floz) of base oil. Wheatgerm, avocado, sweet almond, and sunflower oils are good bases. The base oil should be 100% pure and unrefined. Mix only 50ml (2floz) at a time; the oil will keep for one to two months if stored in a dark, cold place.

Channel-opening techniques

You can enhance your acupressure treatment by "opening" the Channel you are about to treat -- bringing it closer to the body surface. To do this, first look at the treatment plan to see which Channels to work on.

To open a Channel, you as "giver" need to ask the recipient to adopt the appropriate position, as shown below and on the following three pages. Some Channels are best opened by moving the arm (see below) and others respond best to moving the leg. Place your hands as illustrated, to provide a firm support in the position.

Opening the Channels in this way makes the points easier to work on and more sensitive to treatment. Many of these techniques also slightly stretch the tissues through which the Channels pass, which helps to unblock and smooth the flow of Qi. If the recipient is comfortable in the given position he/she can remain in it while you treat the acupoints. If not, just holding the position for two to three seconds Before moving into a more comfortable one for treatment will help to open up the Channel and make your treatment more effective.

When you are working on more than one Channel in a treatment, you can either open the Channels first, then treat all the points, or open one Channel at a-time, and work only on that Channel point before starting on the second, and so on. Do what is most convenient and most comfortable for both of you.


All the Channels on pages 32 and 33 are best opened with an arm movement, because they are most easily accessible in the arm. For the arm positions, keep your hand firmly but gently on the recipient's shoulder, to encourage him/her to let go of tension in the arms and relax into the treatment.


The Spleen, Liver, Kidney, Bladder, Gall Bladder, and Stomach Channels are all best opened by using a leg position.

If moving the leg also lifts the pelvis, hold your hand gently against the recipient's hip to keep the pelvis on the floor. Otherwise, just rest your hand on the belly for support.

Copyright © 1991 by Gaia Books Ltd, London and Stroud

Meet the Author

Founder and Director of the European Shiatsu School, Chris Jarmey has been teaching shiatsu since 1974. He was the first person to practice shiatsu in the British National Health Service, and has taught extensively in the United States, Europe. and the Far East. His medical qualifications include training in physiotherapy.

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