Thursday, 4 April 2013

Acupressure for Self Help

            I dislike the term “Alternative Medicine”. It suggests an “either/or” or “Us and Them” mentality that is not productive. Both “sides” of the medical profession are guilty of this. Like any important issue medical care should be determined by empirical rather than emotional or historical factors. If something works, use it. That you cannot explain how something works, or that the explanations offered for how it works don’t make sense is not a reason to ignore it, but an indication that we need to learn more. Primitive man knew nothing about aerodynamics but this did not stop the birds flying.

            Acupressure is a good example of what I am talking about. Many of the traditional explanations of how it works quite frankly do not make a lot of sense. One meridian is assigned to an organ that doesn’t physically exist in the body. If we dissect the body there are no apparent meridians. Some practitioners will talk about the blood flow being different in different times of the day, but we know blood flow is not tidal but circulates. On the other hand acupressure/acupuncture could be demonstrated to be having an effect that was more than psychosomatic.

            Erle Montaigue used to tell a story of a student of his who was a surgeon. While operating on a patient one day the patient went into cardiac arrest. The surgeon stabbed his scalpel into a “energy point” on the sole of the foot and the patient’s heart started again. That the patient was unconscious and also pumped full of pain killers eliminates that this was a psychological effect. That we cannot see the meridians may simply mean that we do not know what to look for, and that they may be a number of structures that conventional anatomy regards as discrete. Many people who have experienced heart attacks have reported shooting pains along the inside of their left arm –a location that acupuncture designates as the heart meridian. Blood flow may not be tidal, but we do know the body is subject to biorhythms and that we feel more energetic at certain times of the day. Acupressure and Acupuncture gained greater acceptance in the west when it was discovered that it stimulated the body to produce endorphins –natural painkillers.

            Many decades ago when I had started my first ever full time job I brought a copy of “Acupressure Techniques Book. A Self-Help Guide” by Dr Julian Kenyon. My first job was at a research centre located in a large country estate. Many of the rolling fields around us were bright yellow with the flowers of rape (Brassica napus) and I was soon to make the unwelcome discovery that I was allergic to rapeseed pollen. I had never had any indication that I suffered from hayfever before, but all of a sudden I was clawing at my eyes. More out of curiosity than anything else I took a look at my new book. I knew Acupressure could produce endorphins, but that did not seem much help for what was a disproportionate immune response. None the less, I consulted the book and found a page on hayfever and allergies. Not expecting much I tried stimulating the points suggested. I actually did not expect this to work at all!

            The next day I had no symptoms at all. In fact I have not been subject to hayfever again in more than 25 years. Much to my surprise that one treatment was enough.

            As you may expect, I have a healthy respect for the capabilities of acupressure (pun intended). There are obviously possible effects other than endorphin production. I still have the book and still consult it on occasion.

            Many years ago my mother was experiencing considerable back pain. On certain evenings she would ask that I “do her back” and slowly and painfully lower herself to the floor to lay face down. I’d probe the relevant points between her vertebrae for a minute or so and she would then spring back to her feet like she was 20 years younger. The relief this could produce was quite dramatic.

            I don’t know if the book is still in print, but if you can find a copy by consider buying one. In my own book I mention that Liver 4 is also a useful healing point. This is a point worth learning since it can be used on a number of ailments including toothache and headaches. I have nothing against using painkillers, and oil of cloves is miraculous for tooth pain but there will be times when you do not have such things handy so acupressure can be a very useful alternative.

            If you have hayfever or allergies then it will cost you nothing (other than the price of the book) to try some acupressure on yourself. Hopefully you will experience similar success to my self.

            On particular page in the book sticks in mind. In the section on haemorrhoids the author recounts on how he has witnessed haemorrhoids visibly reducing before his eyes while a point on the patient’s head was stimulated. Perhaps this section struck me since it was another example of acupressure having an effect that seemed to be more than just than of endorphins. Haemorrhoids affects millions of people, including a significant proportion of pregnant women so if there is a way that their effects can be reduced by an acupressure point on the head such information needs to be more widely circulated.

            The relevant point is GV-20. This is on the centreline on the top of the head, intersecting a line drawn up from the angle of the jaw and through the apex of the ear. Press down on this point and rock your fingers forwards to stimulate. Usefully this point can be stimulated in any social situation. Kenyon’s book also includes a number of other points that might have an effect. While researching this post I also came across this video on a point for relief of haemorrhoid pain. Not tried this myself but worth experimenting with.