The other night, I was lying in bed and feeling my anxiety spiral out of control. I'd tried all of my usual coping mechanisms — meditation, deep breathing, calling a friend — but the intense stress remained, weighing on me like an unwelcome, restrictive wool coat on a hot summer day. After falling down several different rabbit holes of internet searches, I soon came across a specific pressure point for stress, one that honestly seemed too good to be true. I mean, how could simply pressing on a certain part of your body actually change the way you feel, right?
If you're skeptical, my friends, I totally get it, but hear me out: This pressure point is called "LI4," or "He Gu" in Chinese, according to UCLA's online integrative medicine resource. It's also sometimes referred to as "the hand valley point" because it's located right on your hand, between the thumb and index finger. As per Healthline, applying pressure to this part of your hand "may help reduce stress, as well as alleviate migraines, toothaches, shoulder tension, and neck pain." And personally, when I tried it out myself during that anxiety-ridden night I was having, it actually seemed to work in relieving some of the physical tension I was feeling. So how can a simple technique like this affect you in such a significant way?
According to Dr. Leng Tang-Ritchie, director of clinical services at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, LI4 is a highly effective pressure point used in acupuncture and acupressure treatments. "It is also the acupuncture point that is most well-known to the public," she tells Elite Daily in an email.
There's been a decent amount of research regarding this pressure point and its ability to alleviate pain, both physical and mental. One study, for example, published in The Oman Medical Journal, tested the effects of the LI4 pressure point in a group of 149 women in labor, and found that this type of acupressure is an "effective, non-invasive, and easily applicable technique to reduce labor pain." So yeah, I'd say it sounds like the technique is pretty legit.
"While LI4 is an exceptional point to alleviate headaches, particularly migraines and tension headaches, it can also help with a range of symptoms from toothaches to constipation, pain in the jaw, and general body pain," Dr. Tang-Ritchie explains. And yes, she adds, the pressure point can also be an effective way to relieve stress.
Here's the good news: You don't have to go to acupuncture and allow some stranger to stick a needle in your hand in order to stimulate this pressure point (but for the record, acupuncture can be very helpful for some people, and I highly recommend trying it if you have the means to do so). According to Tang-Ritchie, for someone who hasn’t experienced acupuncture before, doesn't want to, or doesn't have access to it, acupressure is another great way to try out a form of Chinese medicine, as it's something you can do yourself at home.
"Acupressure works to stimulate specific points along a meridian to clear away energetic blockages, speeding up the body’s own healing response," she explains. And all that means for you is giving your hand a nice little squeeze when you feel like you could use a little stress or pain relief.
"To find this particular pressure point, locate the area between your thumb and pointer finger — it's a small spot, about the size of a nickel," Dr. Sherrie Campbell, licensed counselor, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, and author of the book Success Equations: A Path to Living an Emotionally Wealthy Life, tells Elite Daily over email. "Once you find this soft spot, all you have to do is apply continuous pressure with your thumb and index finger using your other hand."
Apply pressure for three minutes, Dr. Campbell explains, and try to take deep breaths during that time. "Self-visualize your body relaxing and letting go of any stress or pain you are experiencing," she adds.
Whether you need a moment of mindful relief during a stressful day at school, work, or even when you're anxious before bed, the LI4 pressure point can be a simple, yet effective way to feel like yourself again. There's just one more thing to keep in mind, though: According to Tang-Ritchie, you shouldn't try to stimulate this pressure point when you're pregnant, because apparently the LI4 point is believed to induce labor. So, I suppose you'll have to save it for during labor, in that case.