Find Your Zen with Back Massage Pressure Points for Stress Relief

The back is a highway of interconnected motor and autonomic nerves in the human body. This means that the back is both rich with acupressure points and capable of storing stress. In some cases, pent-up stress manifests as exhaustion, and at other times physical exhaustion of the back generates stress in the mind. Either way, an exhausted back can negatively impact your overall health.

Maintaining relaxation and energy can be aided through back massage pressure points for stress relief. When the correct acupoints are activated, you can rebalance your nervous system through your back to fight that always tired feeling.

Does A Back Massage Relieve Stress?

Traditional Chinese medicine has recognized acupuncture as a reliable treatment for stress for many many years. In a way, back massages are similar to acupuncture and may even stimulate some points by accident. When acupuncture is added to a back massage intentionally both muscle tension and tension in the nervous system can be released for full-body stress and pain relief.

As acupuncture continues to gain popularity on a global scale, more and more research is being completed to validate the claims of eastern medicine. Some studies have shown that acupuncture can both relax tight muscles and encourage the release of natural hormones that combat stress. Other studies have reflected this research with clinical trials in which patients reported lower stress levels after regular acupuncture treatments.

It is becoming more common to use acupressure points to relieve anxiety attacks and to use acupressure points for depression because of their positive effect on mental health. However, acupuncture is also effective against fatigue. Studies are finding that acupuncture can help reduce fatigue in some individuals.

How Can I Massage My Own Back?

Photo by Teo Zac on Unsplash

Reaching pressure points on head to relieve stress or stress relief foot massage pressure points can be a solo task, but back massage pressure points for stress relief are slightly out of reach. A companion or caretaker who knows how to locate the following pressure points can be of great assistance when it comes to an acupressure back massage.

There of course, are times when it is difficult to get assistance, and in these situations, you can massage your own back. A softball, tennis ball, or another firm yet round object can be placed between your back and a soft surface so you can easily adjust its location to the correct points. With this method, it is also easy to manage how much pressure you apply to each point and you can replicate rubbing pressure by moving your body in a slight circular motion.

Heat can also be used to activate acupressure points without direct contact. You can hold a hairdryer near the points you wish to activate, or even apply warm compresses over the general area of the point for stimulation.

What are the acupressure points for a stress relief back massage?

There are plenty of acupoints for stress relief, but the following are the best stress relief back massage pressure points for healing the mind and body.

Acupoint: Bl-15 (Other Names: Urinary Bladder-15/Xin Shu/Heart Transporter)


It turns out that acupressure for the heart is good for the mind and body as well. The heart is like a joining point between the mind and body, and Bl-15 lies close behind it. When there is excess heat or stress in the heart it pains the back and burdens the mind. Activating Bl-15 supports heart health, as well as the entirety of one’s well-being.

This back massage pressure points to stress relief, Bl-15, is stimulated by either pressure or heat. You can locate this point at the lower edge of the 5th thoracic vertebrae. Measure 1.5 cun to either side of this vertebrae, and you will find Bl-15. Reclining this area on a warm rolled towel is a great option for self-massaging. You can even ball the towel up to apply more firm pressure on this point.

Acupoint: Bl-18 (Other Names: Urinary Bladder-18/Gan Shu/Liver Transporter)

Bl-18 is another key bladder channel point and its value for stress release is related to its use in acupressure points for emotional release. This acupressure point is known for helping people release or mellow out strong emotions like sudden frightful stress or rage. When you activate this acupoint, you support healthy liver function, steady blood flow, relax tension in the back, and free the mind of burdensome emotions.

To locate Bl-18 you have to move down to the 9th thoracic vertebrae. Much like Bl-15, this point lies 1.5 cun to either side of the lower portion of this vertebrae. Stimulation can be facilitated with a warm compress or leaning into a rollable object that generates pressure.

Acupoint: GV-12 (Other Names: The Governing Vessel-12/Shen Zhu/Body Pillar)

A key factor in treating many conditions includes riding the mind of stress, which is why GV-12 is included in most acupuncture alopecia areata treatments. Mental strain manifests in the back as stored tension and this point releases that tension while also clearing the lungs for deep relaxing breaths.

This back massage pressure points stress relief best when GV-12 is activated while you take deep relaxing breaths. Unlike the previous points, GV-12 is located at the center of the spine, right below the third thoracic vertebra, making it an unmirrored point. Apply gentle pressure to this point with whatever method is easiest for you to manage on your own.

Acupoint: SI-11 (Other Names: Small Intestine-11/Tian Zong/Heavenly Gathering)

It is important to know how to relieve tension between shoulder blades since tension in this area can block a healthy flow of Qi. Therefore, when SI-11 is activated, each shoulder muscle, the upper back, and each neck muscle is given an opportunity to relax. With this relaxation comes an improvement in blood and energy flow, allowing the body and mind to become more balanced.

SI-11 is located in the center of the scapula, in a slight depression. This point falls in line with the 4th thoracic vertebrae if you are looking for a reference point. You will know when you apply pressure to the correct point as it will be uncomfortable at first. Rubbing left and right on this point for a few seconds at a time can help loosen it up and make it more comfortable. A rollable object that can exert pressure, like a bouncy ball, or the assistance of another person is best for activating this point.

Acupoint: GV-11 (Other Names: The Governing Vessel-11/Shen Dao/Way of the Spirit)

The governing vessel channel is full of points that have a powerful influence over the body’s functions, and GV-11 is another prime point for full-body stress relief. Many of the overwhelming emotions we feel are related to hormone secretion within our own bodies. These hormones have the ability to affect both our brains and bodies in negative ways when they are unbalanced. GV-11 gives us the ability to correct any abnormal hormonal levels, allowing the mind and body to regain a healthy balance.

GV-11 falls right in the depression directly below the spinal process of the 5th thoracic vertebra. Since this point is located directly on the spine, be sure to use controlled and gentle pressure. Application of pressure in a slightly upward direction can help intensify the balancing effects of this point.

Acupoint: Bl-23 (Other Names: Urinary Bladder-23/Shen Shu/Kidney Transporter)

Acupoint: Bl-23 Or Ub-23(Other Names: Urinary Bladder-23/Shen Shu/Kidney Transporter)

You may be surprised to find out that acupuncture for male pattern baldness is also effective for back massages focusing on stress relief due to a particular point. Bl-23 Is known for its balancing influence on the autonomic nervous system. It does this by improving the state of the kidneys, which results in a healthy flow of water and energy throughout the body. As this point relaxes your autonomic nervous system, you will also notice a tension release in your lower back. This point is a perfect conclusion to a full back massage focused on pressure points for stress relief and improved energy.

Bl-23 is located in close proximity to the kidneys. Specifically, it falls 1.5 cun to either side of the 2nd lumbar vertebrae of the lower back. A firm yet flexible ball or a heated compress are both effective ways to stimulate this point. Be sure to stimulate both sides of this point with circular pressure for maximum effect and balance within the body.


  • Bl-15 serves as a joining point between the body and the mind, offering an opportunity to release the stress that has built up in both places and resulted in fatigue.
  • Strong emotions can further intensify exhaustion and strain on the mind. Bl-18 provides a physical way to dispel strong and sudden emotions, especially when its activation is coupled with deep breathing.
  • GV-12 opens up the lungs and dispels emotional tension that has built up in the muscles of the upper back. Once activated, this point breaks the exhausting connection between mental and physical stress.
  • SI-11 improves the flow of Qi throughout the upper back, which translates to relaxation of the mind and improved blood flow through the relaxed muscles of your back.
  • GV-11 offers an opportunity to restore balance to the hormonal system, which can have disastrous effects on the mind and body when it falls out of balance.
  • The autonomic nervous system is best relaxed by Bl-23, which can relax the entirety of the lower back and improve kidney function when properly activated.
  • If you love back massage, do not miss this article about using back massage techniques and pressure points for common health issues.

Author: P. Sze

P. Sze P. Sze is the founder of TCM Tips and Dragon Acupuncture®. She graduated from the National University of Singapore with a first-class honor in Civil Engineering. S he also holds a master’s degree in Engineering and is the brain behind the innovative TCM products of Dragon Acupuncture®. She is the author of The Beginner's Guide to Auricular Therapy: Application of Ear Seeds (ISBN 978-1520451398) and Facial Gua Sha - Fight the Signs of Aging Naturally and Inexpensively (ISBN 978-1980678922). She has dedicated her life to ensuring that the complex theories behind oriental medicine and the seemingly dangerous techniques that involve needles and fire do not scare you from trying oriental medicine. This is why she writes endlessly about acupressure and its countless health and wellness benefits.

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