February 2014

Medicine of the People: Massage and Self-Acupressure


Dr. Japa K. Khalsa


The healing arts encompass many traditions, including massage, acupuncture, chiropractic and shamanic healing. In New Mexico, there is the shamanic healing tradition of curanderismo, indigenous folk medicine that encompasses healing of the body, mind and spirit. New Mexico law provides a safe harbor that legally protects the curandero/a’s right to practice. In some states, traditional healers can be shut down for practicing medicine without a license. New Mexico’s support of traditional and alternative medicine is a step towards multicultural sustainability. At the core of all of these healing traditions is a reliance on the body’s innate ability to heal itself. It is important to consider when and how we can make a change in our own consciousness. A tired and overburdened healthcare system cannot heal until we find a way to change the system from within and develop our own healing power.

Medicine of the People

Massage and self-acupressure bring us in touch with the true medicine of the people, a way that common ailments can be healed by touch. The art of laying on hands is a time-honored and authentic way to bring support to a part of the body that is under stress or pain. Getting a massage is wonderful, and it is important to remember that self-massage, as part of the routine of life, is valuable to overall health on many levels. Massaging and pressing on parts of the body directly can help to bring blood-flow to an organ or release pain from a muscle region. Stomachaches, headaches and stress can all be alleviated with simple hand pressure. One secret is to massage both the actual area where the pain is located and also a distal point on the hands or feet to free up the blockage that may be causing the symptom.

In Eastern medicine, the speed of energy movement picks up and moves quickly around the fingertips and toes and slows down as it moves into the center of the body. This speed could be due to the larger quantity of sensory nerves in toes and fingers, or that there are beginning and end points to the 12 major organ meridians on the ends of fingers and toes. We can use direct pressure on the limbs to influence change in the internal organs. Working with the body in this way can be as effective as direct pressure or stimulation into the internal organs.

So let’s look at several common ailments and simple ways to self-heal by combining a local, gentle trigger point or acupressure release at the site of the problem and a simultaneous release at a distal point on the arms and legs.

Squeeze Away a Headache

Special digestive points on the forearms and hands can be massaged quite easily for relief of headache. Grasp the forearm with the opposite hand and massage down the forearm, looking for tender spots while squeezing. Find a tender spot, stop there, hover at this spot and massage vigorously, using the thumb to press into the spot repeatedly until some of the tension in the spot is dispersed. In the hand, pay special attention to the webbing between the index finger and the thumb. The acupuncture point in this webbing is known to relieve migraines and headaches. Find the tender spot in the middle of the webbing and press hard for several seconds, breathe deeply and then relax (see photo). Repeat this step as many times as necessary until the headache subsides.

It also helps to massage the sides of the temples gently and starting at the inner eyebrow, grasp and gently massage the eyebrows towards the outer part of the eye. Gently massage along the jaw line, moving up the side of the face to gently massage any tense areas in the cheekbones and especially near the tense parts of the jaw muscle along the sides of the face near the ear.

Belly Rubs for Better Digestion

Since digestion is such an ongoing and never-ending process in the body, it’s great to give it some daily support with simple techniques. Try simply rubbing the belly in a circular fashion about 20 to 25 times, once or twice a day. Move in a soothing way and clockwise direction (imagine the belly as a clock, facing outwards). This will help to get in touch with the treasure trove of nerve endings in the abdomen. There are so many nerve endings in the digestive tract that it acts as a second brain, sensing and delivering those gut feelings of butterflies or protective warnings. The belly has a powerful inner wisdom of guidance and healing for the entire mind, body and spirit connection.

If you have an acute episode of sluggish digestion or bloating, try pressing the outside upper part of your leg below your knee (see photo). This point is known as “walk three miles” in Chinese medicine, and pressing hard on this point will help to stimulate digestion. It is known for giving strength and relieving fatigue, so couple this with daily belly rubs and see what digestion improvements unfold.

Nobody Likes Nausea

A simple way to relieve nausea and a churning stomach is to press the point called Pericardium 6 near the wrist. Say you’ve been reading too long while riding in a car or you’ve eaten the wrong food combination. Try pressing and massaging this point on the underside of the forearm near the wrist. It is about two fingerbreadths up from the wrist crease in between the two major tendons in the center of the underarm (see photo). Press firmly here, just to the sensation of discomfort and hold for about five seconds while taking a deep breath. Repeat until the nausea sensation begins to disperse.

Stress Relief in a Surprising Place

What is an easy, free way to relax the body in a few seconds? It sounds funny, but squeezing the ears and massaging all around the earlobe releases multiple acupressure points that are found there. It is actually relaxing for the entire body in a very short amount of time. The ear is considered a micro-universe of healing for the entire macro-universe of the body. There are points distributed all through the ear that help the skeleton, the glandular system, the heart and inner organs and all other parts of the body. Try it out and experiment to create an immediate state of less stress.

The Sweet Spot: the Neck

The part of our nervous system (parasympathetic) that controls our rest-and-relax response has many outlets and nerves in the neck area. It’s a sweet spot for natural healers to ply their trade because working on and relaxing a person’s neck is a surefire way to create deeper relaxation. This part of the body holds so much chronic tension from staring at a computer screen and keeping the 30 pounds of the head elevated. The more relaxation flows into the neck, the easier it is for nerves to stay healthy, for lymphatic fluid to flow and for muscles to be pain-free.

Take hold of the nape of the neck and squeeze and release the entire area. Be creative; rub and massage, then squeeze, compress and release. Hold yourself with reverence and see how much natural healing you can create. Within our own bodies lie the tools for the answer to our health and happiness. Gift yourself with a regular massage from a professional and add acupressure into your daily routine for less stress and greater quality of life. Sustainable self-care and wellness, relating to ourselves with reverence, respect and nurturing energy can, over time, create a change in our world and better health for everyone.


Dr. Japa K. Khalsa received a Bachelor or Science from Northwestern University and completed her Master of Oriental Medicine at Midwest College of Medicine. She is a board-certified and licensed Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and practices in Española, NM. 505.747.3368, drjapa@gmail.com, http://www.drjapa.com



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