Learning & Resource Center Articles
Acupressure for Nausea
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM
Nausea is an uncomfortable urge to vomit, which can range from mild queasiness to serious distress. While nausea is not classified as a disease itself, it is an indicator that something else is wrong. Depending on the severity and duration of vomiting, some level of dehydration may occur. In severe cases, this may become a medical emergency. Small sips of warm water may help the patient stay hydrated or, if this is not tolerable, sucking on ice chips may help.
Fortunately, acupuncture and Oriental medicine offers some simple acupressure techniques you can perform at home to help alleviate your nausea. The first exercise involves a very popular acupuncture point for this purpose, called Pericardium 6 (P6) or Inner Gate. To locate this point, place your hand with the palm facing up. Starting from the middle of the wrist crease, place three fingers down below your wrist. Your index finger should be in the middle of two tendons. If you are having trouble locating the tendons, flex your wrist and they should be displayed more prominently.
Press Inner Gate lightly with the pad of your thumb. You can slowly increase pressure and go deeper into the point. Continue this exercise for up to five minutes if you are using heavy pressure. However, some people experience more relief from nausea when they continuously press with gentle to moderate pressure. If this is the case for you, it is safe to apply acupressure for longer periods of time. This may be especially helpful in cases of motion sickness.
If your nausea still persists after applying acupressure at Inner Gate, you can activate its partner point, called Outer Gate or San Jiao 5 (SJ5). It is found on the opposite side of the forearm from Inner Gate. With your thumb on Inner Gate and your middle finger on Outer Gate, complete the circuit by squeezing the points together using moderate pressure. Hold for a few seconds and then release. This can be done for up to five minutes. If you feel you need a little extra self-care, you can place your hands near your heart, close your eyes, and breathe deeply as you perform this technique.
The next acupressure exercise covers a larger area, and is less exacting. To find it, first put your hands on your hips, at the level of your waistline. Next, adjust your fingers so they are all below your ribs, with your pinky resting around the level of your belly button. Your fingers should be lined up with the nipples. Press into the abdomen using circular motions and gradually expand your motions outwards for another couple of inches. This technique can be quite soothing and is best when performed sitting down, for two to three minutes. For a super quick fix, try tapping your inner wrists together nine times.
One explanation for nausea, according to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, is that it can be considered rebellious Qi. Qi is the essential energy that all life needs to exist. The natural momentum of the stomach is to move in a downwards direction, and when this function is disrupted, the Qi therefore is said to 'rebel' by going in the wrong direction. Rebellious stomach Qi can also result in hiccups and vomiting.
There are ways to strengthen the stomach and help prevent nausea. According to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, the stomach is associated with the element of earth. The earth thrives on routine and regularity. To help you eat according to the rhythms of your stomach, eat breakfast every day at the same time. Ideally, this time is between 7am-9am, when stomach Qi is at its strongest. Eat at a leisurely pace; otherwise your stomach won't have enough time to digest the food.
Avoid eating late at night, or before bed, so that energy which should be spent on rejuvenating all the organs during sleep isn't spent on an untimely digestion. Reading or using the computer while having your meal will also interrupt your digestion. The mental energy expended on these activities will be diverted from the energy needed for your stomach. Lastly, the emotion coupled with the stomach is worry. So, when you feel worried or you find yourself overthinking, either eat lightly or wait until you feel more grounded before having your next meal.
Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help ease your symptoms!
About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.