Anxiety is something we all suffer from (to a degree) – it can be small and almost unnoticeable or all-consuming. Anxiety attacks are one of the more severe forms and symptoms of anxiety. They can be overwhelming. Knowing you may have an anxiety attack can even increase your general anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety attacks, know you are not alone and that there are hundreds of ways to help and mitigate them – acupressure points to relieve anxiety attacks could help.
Acupressure is a practice from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). You may be more familiar with acupuncture, a practice also from TCM. Acupuncture requires the use of small needles to insert into and target acupressure points (or “pressure points”) throughout the body. Acupressure, on the other hand, targets the same points but uses the palms and fingers instead of needles. If acupuncture is something you’ve been wanting to try but you are worried about the needles – acupressure could be a great alternative.
The theory of how acupressure (and acupuncture) works is rooted in energy. Acupressure points lie on meridians in the body, and meridians are energy pathways corresponding to major organs in the body. For example, there is a liver meridian, a heart meridian, a stomach meridian, and so on. Stimulating pressure points will stimulate “qi”, or energy, and promote its movement throughout the meridian. This movement will circulate blood and energy in the body, which promotes healing and peace.
Acupressure has been shown to help thousands of ailments. Toothaches to ankle sprains to insomnia have all been shown to be helped with consistent acupressure. In this article, we are breaking down the top 9 pressure points to relieve anxiety attacks including some bonus information with each acupoint. Read on to see how you can help your anxiety disorders at home!
Can Acupressure Relieve Anxiety?
Short answer: yes! If you follow the guidelines we’ve laid out below about acupressure for anxiety disorder, acupressure can help relieve anxiety.
One study in South Korea evaluates the efficacy of acupressure on anxiety in nurses. The study uses six Meridian acupressure points (including a few we discuss below like GV-20) on 29 nurses (with 30 other nurses acting as the control group). After less than two months of consistent acupressure, the nurses had “significantly decreased stress, fatigue, and anxiety”.
Another study looks at the effect of acupressure on pain and anxiety, as determined by the patients (this means the patients rate their anxiety and pain before and after treatment). This study indicates acupressure is a “highly satisfactory complementary therapy” that was shown to decrease anxiety. Regular participants, hospital patients, and nurses all experienced a significant decrease in their anxiety after using acupressure. 75% of the patients were satisfied with the acupressure treatments.
Both of these scientific studies show a positive correlation between acupressure and the reduction of anxiety. So our answer is yes: acupressure can help greatly in the alleviation of anxiety, especially in combination with other anxiety treatments.
Can Acupuncture Cure Anxiety?
Anxiety is a complex disorder with a range of symptoms and severity, depending on the person. Dr. Cremens from the Massachusetts General Hospital says anxiety is highly treatable, but not necessarily curable. So, no, acupuncture cannot cure anxiety. But it can do a great job of treating and moderating anxiety.
One study focused specifically on how anxiety can be mitigated with acupuncture. Instead of conducting its own tests, this study compiled the data of about 18 other studies which conducted tests on the efficacy of acupuncture on anxiety. By combining data and running statistical analysis on a large pool of data from different sources, the results are much more likely to be accurate. The study suggests that acupuncture has some beneficial effects on those suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Though the analysis doesn’t indicate an end-all-be-all cure to anxiety, it shows that acupuncture can definitely help treat and moderate general anxiety.
Are There Any Precautions With Acupressure?
The sensitivity of acupoints will vary from person to person and from acupoint to acupoint. Points around the face and stomach, for example, will likely be far more sensitive than points on the leg.
The best way to stimulate acupoints without aggravation is to press on the acupoint lightly. As you exhale, increase pressure for about 3 seconds. As you inhale and relax, slowly remove the pressure for about 3 seconds. Repeat this 5-6 times for each acupoint. If you have inflammation or pain around the area, don’t conduct acupressure. Only use pressure that is comfortable – don’t press too hard.
Is There A Pressure Point For Anxiety?
There are hundreds of pressure points all over the body, all of them helping with many ailments. There are dozens of acupressure points that could help anxiety. In this article, we are going to break down the 9 we feel to be the most important and effective acupressure points to relieve anxiety attacks: Ht-7, Sp-6, Pc-6, Li-4, Li-1, Lu-11, Ren-4, Gv-20, and Ren-17.
All of these points have proven to reduce anxiety and help with many other disorders. Read on for how to find and stimulate each point.
Acupoint: HT-7 (Other Names: Heart-7/Shen Men/Spirit Gate)
The Spirit Gate acupoint, located on the heart meridian, accomplishes many feats in the body by regulating blood and energy in the heart. Stimulating Ht-7 will help with anxiety, insomnia, chest pain, epilepsy, and palpitations due to fear. Ht-7 is included on our list of acupressure points for hot flashes – check that article out for how to mitigate hot flashes.
Spirit Gate is easy to find and easy to stimulate. Open your hand and face your palm towards yourself. Place your other thumb in the middle of your wrist, right where your hand and wrist meet. Then, slide your thumb in about one inch (your thumb should be on the pinky side of your wrist). You will feel a small divot and know you are on the right point.
Acupoint: SP-6 (Other Names: Spleen-6/San Yin Jiao/Three Yin Intersection)
Located on the spleen meridian, the Three Yin Intersection is able to strengthen many organs in the body and nourish blood all throughout the body. Sp-6 will help with irregular menstruation in women, infertility, skin diseases, stomach dysfunction, headaches, insomnia, and more. We have an article on the third eye acupressure point – Sp-6 is included where we discuss acupoints, along with the third eye, that helps with improving taste and smell after an illness.
Sp-6 is located on the leg. Place your finger on the knobby ankle bone on the inside of your leg. Move your finger 4 finger-widths distance directly up and you have located this acupoint.
Acupoint: PC-6 (Other Names: Pericardium-6/Nei Guan/Inner Pass)
The Inner Pass acupoint, also included on our list of heart pressure points, is great for anxiety, nausea, motion sickness, carpal tunnel, and more. It’s been shown to also help many pregnant women with morning sickness and vomiting.
This acupoint is yet another easy-to-locate and easy-to-engage acupressure point. Locate where your wrist and hand meet. Place your finger three finger-widths down from this point and in the middle of the two tendons running on the underside of your wrist. Be cautious as this acupoint can be sensitive for many people.
Acupoint: LI-4 (Other Names: Large Intestine-4/He Gu/Joining Valley)
Li-4 is an extremely versatile acupoint, used for many ailments and applications. Located on the liver meridian, Junction Valley can help with diseases of the head, congestion, eye pain, toothaches, fever, arm pain, sores, childbirth, and so much more! We’ve featured Li-4 in our article on the SP5 acupuncture point, where we break down the best ways to detox the spleen. Li-4 is able to accomplish all this by tonifying qi, strengthening immunity, and regulating heat.
Junction Valley is one of the easiest acupoints to find. Locate the webbed area between your thumb and pointer finger. Press down on the fleshy area just behind the webbed part and you are stimulating this acupoint.
Acupoint: LI-1 (Other Names: Large Intestine-1/Shang Yang/Metal Yang)
Metal Yang, also on the liver meridian, can help greatly in reducing and relieving anxiety attacks. Li-1 will also help with toothache, sore throat, numbness in the fingers, coma, and even deafness. If you work a desk job, be sure to check out our article on the PC 9 acupuncture point, where we discuss the best acupressure points for office workers, including Li-1.
Yet another easy acupressure point to find! Look at your pointer finger and locate the bottom part of your nail. Simply put pressure on the inside of your finger (the side closer to your thumb) in line with the bottom part of your nail.
Acupoint: LU-11 (Other Names: Lung-11/Shao Shang/Lesser Metal)
The Lu-11 acupoint, located on the lung meridian, is a great addition to our list of pressure points to relieve anxiety. This point will also help with cough, sore throat, coma, numbness in the fingers, and other manic disorders – we even have a whole article dedicated just to acupressure points for sore throat.
Lu-11 is located very similarly to Li-1 – but instead of being located on the pointer finger, Lu-11 is located on the thumb. Simply locate and press on the outer part of your thumb, in line with the bottom part of your nail.
Both LI-1 and LU-11 acupuncture points suppress the stress and bring about an intestinal regulation effect. Stress directly affects the intestines and causes abdominal pain. So if the intestines are in order, the mind will be in order.
Acupoint: Ren-4 (Other Names: The Conception Vessel-4/Guan Yuan/Origin Pass)
Origin Pass is an extremely useful and versatile acupressure point. This point will nourish the kidneys, benefit qi, and calm the Shen. These benefits will result in helping the following ailments: retention of urine, irregular menstruation, infertility, diarrhea, and more. Ren-4 is also featured on our list of acupressure points for gas and bloating.
Origin Pass, unlike the other acupoints we’ve discussed thus far, is located on the stomach. Simply locate your belly button and move your finger down about 3 cun to locate and stimulate this acupoint.
Acupoint: GV-20 (Other Names: The Governing Vessel-20/Bai Hui/Hundred Convergence)
The GV-20 acupoint, located on the Governing Vessel meridian, will help not only with anxiety attacks, but also dizziness, vertigo, prolapse of the rectum and uterus, and insomnia. One Hundred Meetings is also one of the best acupressure points for hair growth – be sure to check that article out if you are suffering from hair thinning or lack of hair growth.
This acupressure point is located on the head. Gv-20 is simply at the topmost part of your head, right in the middle. Be careful when engaging this acupoint, as it could be sensitive for many people.
Acupoint: Ren-17 (Other Names: The Conception Vessel-17/Shan Zhong/Middle of the Chest)
The final on our list of pressure points for anxiety attacks is Ren-17, or Middle of the Chest. Ren-17 not only helps with anxiety, but also asthma, pain and tightness in the chest, hiccups, and insufficient lactation. Due to its great benefits to the chest, Ren-17 is also included in our article on acupressure points for bronchitis.
As the name may suggest, Ren-17 is located quite literally in the middle of the chest! Find the point where your two pectoral muscles meet and form a divot – this is where Ren-17 is. Be gentle when first stimulating this acupressure point, as it can be sensitive.