This Shiatsu self-massage sequence, as presented in the following photos, is designed to be done with a tool for reaching the back, such as a Thera Cane®. Chinese and Japanese grocery stores often sell a similar S-shaped tool with a knob on each end. There is also a professional product called a Back Knobber®. If you do not have a tool, you can still do the entire sequence by using your hands. Use a tennis ball in a sock to reach the back of the body.
Here are some general guidelines on the amount of pressure to use and how to use a Theracane.
Stretch before and after using the Theracane. You can also use the Tui Na acupressure self-massage as a warm up.
Start with light pressure and short sessions — don’t overdo it.
Use the Theracane on muscles. Never press on a bone.
Use leverage to increase pressure (imagine using a screw driver to raise a paint can lid).
Position your hands in whatever way is most comfortable.
The amount of pressure (initially) should be between pleasurable and painful. Increase the pressure gradually.
There are two ways to apply pressure — direct (5 to 10 seconds, repeat) and moving (move the Theracane or stabilize the Theracane and move the body.)
A hard quick press is stimulating (tonifying — for areas where pressure feels good). A longer press is more relaxing (sedating — for areas that are painful to the touch).
For deeper pressure, you can hold an area until it softens.
For sensitive, painful areas, work above and below the area before working on the area itself.
Use your hands instead of the Theracane on the front and sides of the neck.
Don’t use the Theracane more than twice in one day to start. You can increase this later. Check in with your body and trust what it tells you.
Can you do too much? Not with your hands, but yes with the Theracane.
It helps to take a warm bath before a session to relax muscles (also after a session to avoid soreness).
1. Hold five points along the base of the skull with your fingers and thumbs. The first point is at the center (GV 16), one thumb width above the hair line. Hold this point with the index and middle fingers of both hands. Press lightly on this point. The next pair of points is on either side of the spine, at the edge of the muscle band (B 10). The second pair of points is in a hollow at the outer edge of the skull, just behind the ears and about level with the ear openings (GB 20). To hold the two pairs of points (B 10 and GB 20), press up against the bone with your thumbs. Do the sequence of five points twice. The first time softens the area. The second time allows you to go in a little deeper.
2. Using your fingertips, press along two parallel lines on each side of the neck, from the base of the skull to the bottom of the neck. The first line is along the muscle band surrounding the spine (Bladder channel). The second line is directly under the hollow at the outer edge of the skull (Gall Bladder channel). Place your right hand behind your neck and pull the muscles on the left side of your neck towards the spine with your fingers. Repeat on the other side. Do both inner lines twice, then massage the outer lines twice.
3. Using the Thera Cane, press points along two parallel lines along each side of the spine (the two pathways of the Bladder channel). The lines run from the top of the shoulder blade to about two thirds of the way down the back (the bottom of the ribs). If you place your ring finger on the spine, the first line is under the index finger. The second line is just inside the shoulder blade, about four fingers out from the spine. The direction of pressure is towards the front of the body. Be sure you press on muscle, not bone. Points along the inner line have a special influence on the energy of the entire body. The outer line is related to our emotional balance. Do both inner lines twice, then both outer lines twice.
4. Using the Thera Cane, press one line along the inside edge of each shoulder blade. The direction of pressure is under the shoulder blade, at a 45 degree angle to the front of the body. Hold the Thera Cane under your arm to reach this area. Massage under the arms with your hands to encourage the flow of lymph. Do each side of the body twice.
5. With your fingers or the Thera Cane, press three lines along the top of each shoulder. The first line is directly on top of the shoulder. The third line is just above the shoulder blade. The second line is between these two. If you use your hands, you can press further out to the edge of the shoulder between the bones. Do the three lines on each shoulder twice.
6. Using the hands, move down the outside of the left arm with a grasping movement, about five grasps between the shoulder and the elbow, then five times between the elbow and wrist. Squeeze the back of the hand, then move up the inside of the arm in a similar fashion. Do this massage twice on both arms. Squeeze each finger or give them a snap. This massage helps balance the Lung, Large Intestine, Pericardium, Triple Warmer, Heart, and Small Intestine channels.
7. Gently tap with a hollow fist across the chest and down each arm. Repeat.
8. Hold four points around each eye: 1) at the bridge of the nose (B 1), 2) in the center of the upper eye socket, 3) on the edge of the outer eye socket (GB 1), 4) in the center of the lower eye socket (ST 1) (hold especially lightly here). Hold each point for one minute, then repeat. You can either hold these points with light pressure or make small circles with your fingertips. Use the flat part of your fingertips. You can rest your elbows on a desk or your knees while you hold the eyes. You can also press points under the cheek bones and massage the temples.
9. Rub the palms of the hands together and place them over the eyes. Block out all light and open the eyes. Allow the warmth and qi from your hands to penetrate to the backs of the eye sockets.
1. Using the Thera Cane, continue to press points along four lines parallel to the spine, as in step 3 of the upper body sequence. For the lower body, start at the bottom of the rib cage (about two thirds of the way down the back) and move down to the tip of the tailbone. Press the inner lines on each side twice, then do the outer lines twice. Below the waist, you will encounter the pelvic bones and sacrum, so adjust the pressure. You can use the Thera Cane against a wall to press individual points.
2. Press one line across the top of the hip bone (the “belt” line) and down the side of the hip to where the leg joins the hip. Do this twice of each side.
3. Press one diagonal line across each buttock. Repeat.
4. Press one line down the outside of each leg (Gall Bladder channel). Do not press on the knees. A great way to work the thighs with a Thera Cane is to place your legs between the two handles and press outwards. Repeat.
5. Press one line down the center of the back of each leg (Bladder channel). Avoid the knees. Using a Thera Cane for the thighs, you can sit on the edge of a chair and lean back, pulling the two short points of the Thera Cane into this line. Repeat.
6. Press one line up the inside of each leg (Spleen, Liver, and Kidney channels). An excellent massage for the Spleen channel is to press with your thumbs (one leg at a time) in the following sequence: along the edge of the big toe, just under the foot bone that goes from the big toe joint to the ankle, then up the calf to the knee, pressing just under the shin bone. Continue up the inside of the thigh. Press gently wherever you find tender areas. As you remove blockages from the Spleen channel, you will be able to massage this meridian with the tip of your elbow. Balancing the Spleen channel will help you assimilate nutrients from the food you eat, distribute them throughout the body, and will leave you feeling full of energy.
7. From a seated position, you can press your foot against one of the posts of the Thera Cane. You can also place the Thera Cane on the floor and stand on various parts of the Thera Cane, massaging the bottom of the foot. If you don’t have a Thera Cane, use a tennis ball to massage the sole of the foot.
8. Squeeze and pull each toe. Press the webbing between each toe. The webbing between the big toe and index toe helps relieve anger. The webbing between the second and third toes relieves gas. The meridian flows change directions at the fingers and toes, and energy is very accessible and susceptible to influence here. Remember to massage the hands, feet, and ears whenever you have a free moment. All three contain reflexology points that influence the entire body.
How do I locate a point?
Because acupuncturists insert needles below the skin and need to be careful to avoid nerves and blood vessels, they locate points very precisely. With acupressure, don’t be concerned about the exact location of a point. The surface area on the skin that allows you to influence the point, drawing energy to the surface, is about the size of a silver dollar or the width of three fingers. It often helps to use one finger to locate a point, since at many points you’ll find a slight indentation in the tissue, about the size of your fingertip. Once you find the point, hold it with three fingers. We usually want to relax the tension around a point, and three fingers is a more comforting touch than one finger.
How much pressure should I use?
The word “pressure” in “acupressure” is a bit misleading. Use pressure only if that’s what feels good to you on a point. In acupressure, we are using an energetic touch, calling the Chi from the energy meridian that runs through the tissues to the surface of the body. In fact, acupressure points are precisely where the energy comes to the surface easily. If you press too hard, you’ll be blocking the flow of energy rather than relaxing the area that surrounds the point. An analogy that my teacher (Janet Oliver) uses is that of a plug in a wall outlet. Once the plug connects with the electricity in the wall, you don’t need to press hard on the plug. It’s the same with acupressure points. You’re making an energetic connection. If you want, you can loosen up the area with a little self-massage before holding the point.
How long should I hold a point?
There are three ways to know that the energy is flowing through an acupressure point.
You may feel a softening of the muscle or tissue. When the area around a point relaxes, the energy can flow smoothly.
You may feel an increase in warmth in the area of the point. This indicates that blood is flowing more readily in the area. Energy follows blood. When blood flow is enhanced, so is the energy flow.
You may feel a pulse at the point. This is also an indication that the blood is flowing in this area. But the pulse you are feeling is actually the pulse of the energy. It’s best to use your fingertips to hold points rather than the thumbs. With the thumb, you may be feeling the pulse of your thumb rather than the pulse of the point.
When you first start doing acupressure on yourself, don’t expect to feel the pulse. As you practice acupressure self-help regularly, your energy becomes balanced, and your pulses will become stronger. Once you can feel pulses at the points, this tells you how long to hold a point. First you will not feel any pulse. Then the pulse will arrive. Once the pulse arrives, stay with it for a while, then move on to the next point.
Be sure to read the section How do I hold acupressure points?
For short term memory, hold Gall Bladder 14. Use this point when you lose your train of thought, when you’re trying to remember a name, or when you can’t find your keys. You’ll be surprised at how effective it is. To find this point, feel for the slight depression in the bone about a thumb’s width above the eyebrow. The point is directly above the center of the eye.
For muscle cramps, hold Gall Bladder 34. Use this point for muscle spasms, twitches, and cramps. To locate this point, trace the outer knee bone (the fibula) up the leg from the outer ankle. The bone may disappear under the calf for a while, but you should be able to feel a knob at the top of the bone. Place the ring finger on this knob. Place the index finger at the bottom of the kneecap, in the center. You middle finger will fall on Gall Bladder 34. If you raise and lower the foot, you should feel a muscle move at this point.
In Chinese medicine, insomnia happens when the spirit (Shen) remains in the head and cannot find rest in the Heart. There are several points you may find helpful. Try them all and see which one works for you.
To encourage energy to move out of the head, we hold points in the feet. Kidney 3 is just behind the inner ankle. Bladder 60 is behind the outer ankle. If you rest one ankle between the big toe and index toe of the other foot, your toes will be holding both of these points.
Jin Shin Jyutsu Safety Energy Lock (SEL) #18 helps insomnia. This point is located of the fleshy pad below the thumb. For more information on Jin Shin Jyutsu, see the article on my website.
Here’s a Jin Shin Jyutsu sequence for insomnia. Wrap the fingers of your right hand around your left thumb and place the right thumb on the left SEL #18. Hold for three minutes. Then hold your left little finger with your right hand for three minutes. Repeat this sequence on the other hand. If you’re still awake, place your right hand on top of your left shoulder (SEL #11), near the neck. Place your left hand in the left hip crease (SEL #15). You can find this point by raising your leg until you feel a large tendon (the inguinal ligament). Your fingertips should rest just to the inside of this tendon. Repeat on the other side.
For anger, hold the webbing between the big toe and index toe (Liver 2). You can hold this point with moderate pressure. If the point becomes painful, try to continue to hold until the pain dissipates. Sometimes we know we’re irritable, but we can’t identify the source of our anger. Holding this points helps release underlying feelings of anger.
For muscle tension, hold Gall Bladder 34 (see location above, under muscle cramps). You can also hold Jin Shin Jyutsu Safety Energy Lock #8. This is located below and behind the knee, on the back side of the fibula (the bone that comes up the outside of the leg from the outer ankle to the knee). Another Jin Shin Jyutsu self-help for muscle tension is to hold the center back of the wrist.
Two good points to hold for the immune system are Large Intestine 11 and Kidney 27. Large Intestine 11 is located at the elbow crease. It’s at the very end of the crease, on the thumb side of the arm. This point is good for flus and colds and for a throat that’s sore and swollen. Kidney 27 is located just below the collar bone (clavicle), on either side of the breast bone (sternum). This point is good for chest congestion, coughing, and bronchitis. A Jin Shin Jyutsu self-help for immunity is to hold Safety Energy Lock #3 and SEL #15. To locate SEL #3, place the right hand on the left shoulder near the neck. Let your fingers reach onto the back of the shoulder. SEL #15 is in the hip crease. You can find this point by raising your leg until you feel a large tendon (the inguinal ligament). Your fingertips should rest just to the inside of this tendon.
For anxiety, hold Jin Shin Jyutsu Safety Energy Lock #26. To locate this point, find the place where the arm meets the body (the armpit crease). Move your fingers back until you feel your shoulder blade. That’s SEL #26. Whenever you feel anxious, put your hands under your arms, reach your fingers back towards these points, and give yourself a big hug.
Hold the left Gall Bladder 20 (the hollow at outer base of skull) with the left hand while the right hand holds (at the right eye) 1) the bridge of the nose, 2) the inner end of the eyebrow, 3) a finger’s width above the center of the eyebrow, 4) the center of the eyebrow, 5) the outer end of the eyebrow, 6) the outer corner of the eye, 7) the eye socket below the eye in the center. Repeat with the other eye (right hand on right Gall Bladder 20, left hand holds points on the left eye). Then hold Governing Vessel 16 (just inside the hairline at the center back of the head) with one hand while the other hand holds between the eyebrows (the “third eye”).
When you’re under stress and you find your breathing is shallow, there are two good points for deepening the breath — Lung 1 and Lung 2. Lung 2 is located where the collar bone (clavicle) meets the shoulder. You’ll feel the tissue change from soft to hard when you reach the shoulder. The point is right under the collar bone. To find Lung 1, place your right index finger in your left Lung 2. Align the tips of your fingers along the edge of the shoulder. Your middle finger will fall on Lung 1. Press either of these points deeply whenever you need to deepen the breath.
Another point for the breath and the spirit is Stomach 16. To locate this point, place your right hand below your left collar bone, with the index finger just under the collar bone. The point is directly under your ear and just below your little finger. Hold the point with three fingers, or brush this area with an upward motion to open the breath and lift the spirits.
Holding points on the Heart channel helps relieve anxiety. Try using these points whenever you need to speak in front of a group. These points are also good to hold when having a heart-to-heart talk or a difficult conversation.
To locate the Heart channel points, find the first large tendon just below the wrist on the little finger side of the wrist. If you bend your wrist forward and back, it may help you to feel the tendon. The Heart channel is just to the inside (thumb side) of this tendon. Reach over the top of the wrist, place your ring finger at the wrist, and your middle and index fingers just below this. Relax your arms and hands. You can hold these points very inconspicuously.