Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as GERD, is the result of stomach acid flowing up into the esophagus. When this acid escapes the stomach, it can cause a great deal of discomfort, dampen your quality of life, and be difficult to manage. A culmination of factors such as stress, weakness of the stomach, and decreased function of the spleen. Many individuals face this condition at some point in their lives, and so traditional Chinese medicine contains acupuncture points for GERD relief.
The acupoints discussed below have been chosen because they are effective methods to treat GERD through its underlying causes. When you rebalance the autonomic nervous system, complications with the gastrointestinal system also improve.
What Is GERD?
The human gastrointestinal system was designed to be a one-way track for foods and fluids. This system is generally maintained when the body is healthy and balanced, but stress and autonomic nervous system dysfunctions can cause malfunctions. GERD is one such malfunction, where stomach acid makes its way up the esophagus resulting in extreme discomfort.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is identified through the following digestive symptoms:
- Heartburn / Epigastric pain (a burning discomfort in the chest, often after eating)
- Involuntary regurgitation after eating
- Trouble swallowing and a lump-like sensation in the throat
- These symptoms can be coupled with a variety of other digestive issues
Medications may reduce or resolve some of these symptoms, but they often do not heal the root cause of this condition. It is important to heal GERD before it impacts your quality of life too severely, as serious ongoing cases can require surgical intervention if left untreated.
What Causes GERD?
At face value, GERD is caused by a malfunctioning digestive tract. Your lower esophageal sphincter opens at times when it shouldn’t, or stomach acid is pushed up the intestinal tract by a large meal. We need to dig deeper and ask what is causing these parts of the body to malfunction.
Traditional Chinese medicine and western medicine have noted that GERD is often the result of stress. Mental stress translates into physical stress as it disturbs a healthy flow of Qi in the body. The parasympathetic nervous system also suffers under excess stress, and so that mental burden becomes physical as it impact’s the liver’s ability to support the gastrointestinal tract. Acupuncture points for GERD recognize and resolve this disrupted brain-to-body connection, allowing you to restore your digestive health.
Does Acupuncture Help With GERD?
Acupressure points for GERD are an easy and readily accessible option for self-treatment. Many functions of the gastrointestinal tract are influenced by the autonomic nervous system, and acupressure points for stomach inflammation provide a non-invasive way to treat that system.
Clinical trials have found that GERD symptoms tend to improve significantly with acupuncture directed towards points on the governing channel. In some trials, it was also found that acupuncture points for GERD could be used to enhance the effectiveness of other treatments, like an herbal or medical intervention. Community studies also show that the value of this treatment is enhanced by its ability to relieve the foundational reason for GERD, stress. This is how acupressure points to relieve anxiety attacks can also relieve pain from stomach acid reflux.
Acupoint: GV-9 (Other Names: The Governing Vessel-9/Zhi Yang/Reaching Yang)
The back has a surprising connection to the chest and abdominal cavity. It often holds stress in the form of tension, creating discomfort and tightness. This tension can be relieved through a back pressure points massage of points along the governing vessel, like GV-9. This point has the ability to open up the chest and treat issues concerning the stomach, like acid reflux. This point also helps dispel damp heat in intestines like the liver, which helps the digestive system restore normal functions.
GV-9 can be found in the center of the back, right below the protrusion of the 7th thoracic vertebra. It may be easier to locate this point by finding the area of your spine that falls in line with the bottom of each shoulder blade. Apply gentle yet firm pressure to this point, and if it is inaccessible to you, it may be best to have someone else activate the point.
Acupoint: GV-10 (Other Names: The Governing Vessel-10/Ling Tai/Spirit Platform)
GV-10 is another significant point on the governing vessel channel regarding pressure points to relieve GERD. This point also relieves tension in the back and this reduction of tension translates to the mind. Just as mental stress can result in physical stress, physical stress can result in mental stress. When this acupoint is activated and the mind relaxes, the root cause of GERD is diminished for longer-lasting relief.
Lingtai, or GV-10, is located in the depression below the 6th thoracic vertebrae of the spine, right above GV-9. There aren’t many other landmarks for locating this point, so if you can’t identify the 6th thoracic vertebrae it is best to locate GV-9 and move up one vertebral space.
Acupoint: GV-11 (Other Names: The Governing Vessel-11/Shen Dao/Way of the Spirit)
Reducing stress is fundamental for treating GERD, which is why this next point has a particular focus on calming the mind. GV-11 is closely related to the spirit. This point is able to relieve tension in the spine and reduce chest pains, but it is included in acupuncture points for GERD because it can be used to calm anxiety.
GV-11 moves up the governing vessel channel once more, falling in the depression below the 5th thoracic vertebra’s protrusion. The sequence of the GV points and their relation to treating GERD makes it easy to work your way up through these points, starting with GV-9 and ending with GV-12.
Acupoint: GV-12 (Other Names: The Governing Vessel-12/Shen Zhu/Body Pillar)
The body pillar point, commonly referred to as GV-12, is fundamental for expelling any stress that burdens the body and mind. This point is so effective against the effects of anxiety that it is commonly used in acupuncture alopecia areata treatments. After activating this point, it is not uncommon to feel both a physical and mental sense of relief that will translate to fewer GERD episodes.
GV-12 skips a vertebrae in the Governing Vessel line-up and falls in the depression right below the 3rd thoracic vertebra. Apply pressure to this point while taking deep breaths. Heat or assistance are great alternatives if you want to reap the relaxation this point offers but can not reach it on your own.
Acupoint: SP-4 (Other Names: Spleen-4/Gong Sun/Grandfather Grandson)
Once the body and mind are relaxed, it is important to stimulate points that support proper digestive tract functions. SP-4, also known as Gongsun, is part of the spleen channel. This is a primary point in acupressure points for spleen inflammation because it has the ability to calm an unbalanced stomach and strengthen weak digestive function. Gastroesophageal reflux disease can lead to other forms of intestinal discomfort, so SP-4’s ability to resolve nausea and a loss of appetite makes it extra valuable.
SP-4 is located lower on the spleen channel, in the feet. You can activate this point by applying pressure on the inner portion of the foot towards the rear portion of the metatarsal bone. There is a slight depression in this area, where you should apply steady pressure in short intervals. If you can not locate your metatarsal bone, you can use the forwardmost area of your foot’s inner arch as a starting point and feel around the inner side of that area for this depression.
Acupoint: ST-37 (Other Names: Stomach-37/Shang Ju Xu/Upper Great Void)
This stomach channel point helps sum up all of the other points in this list by helping reduce pain, improving GERD digestive disorder, and relieving stress. This point is most effective when used in junction with the other points on this list as well as a healthy diet, but ST-37 is a powerhouse when it comes to acupressure points for lower abdominal pain. Both the stomach and spleen can be regulated with this point, allowing it to help heal most abdominal pain generated from the stomach and large intestine.
ST-37 is located a little above the halfway point of the tibia. Its location is easiest to find if you start by identifying ST-36, which is 3 cun below the bottom of the kneecap. Then measure another 3 cun down the leg. At this point, you will trace one finger width from the crest of the tibia, towards the outer part of the leg. If your pointer finger is on ST-36, then your pinky should fall at ST-37. This should bring you to an indentation to the side of the tibia, where pressure should be applied for a few seconds at a time.
- GV-9 relieves tension in the back and chest cavity, reducing any stress that is inhibiting normal stomach functions or leading to gastrointestinal disorders.
- The mind is relieved of stress when GV-10 is activated, and this mental relaxation allows the nervous system to rebalance, and normal gastrointestinal functions can then take place.
- GV-11 further supports a relaxed mental state, relieving the body of tension that can obstruct healthy functions.
- Anxiety can be combated with GV-12, which is important since this mental imbalance commonly translates to physical imbalances, especially in the digestive tract.
- SP-4 bolsters the health and strength of the intestinal tract by relieving discomfort in the area and establishing balance amongst these organs.
- Stress relief, pain relief, and reestablishing normal digestive functions are all influenced by ST-37, making it the perfect point to sum this list up.