Under Pressure: How To Touch Your Tension Away

Ever try to give yourself (or a partner!) a soothing massage, only to have it feel like an incredibly unsexy Vulcan death grip? We hear ya. Not all parts of the body are created equal, so before you start karate-chopping yourself or your nearest and dearest, it's important to know where to find all the focused stress in your body.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), using relaxation techniques can benefit anxiety, asthma, depression, headaches, high blood pressure, pain, and a wealth of other symptoms that are exacerbated by stress. Plus, a new study in the Journal of Endocrinology showed lowered stress levels in rats who received acupuncture. Alternative medicine focusing on pressure points may seem new-age to some, but it's one of the oldest medical practices around.
New York acupuncturist Margaret Sikowitz gave us some tips on how to fit in some quick, effective time with your pressure points. "The go-to pressure points that I would usually give to my patients are basically where you would hold a handbag on your shoulder," she says. "That is the trigger point for the trapezius muscle. If you take a hand or a hairbrush, and you start digging around at the top of your shoulder, you get almost immediate relief." Anyone who carries an overstuffed handbag knows just how tense this point gets, and it's the starting point of many a massage.
Your hands are also home to a serious pressure point, and if you've gotten a manicure recently, you'll probably recognize that ahh feeling of a hand massage. Another one, which is especially delightful for headache sufferers, is the palm of your hand. Sikowitz suggests placing your palm on a table or desk and putting your fingers together. See that chunky part between your thumb and index? That's the money spot. "Put pressure on that point, and you'll get almost immediate satisfaction," Sikowitz says. "I tend to use them in my practice, because so many of us are sitting at computers all day." Finally, and maybe most importantly, is your third-eye pressure point. You can probably feel this pressure point without even learning about where it is. So much tension builds up in our brow from starting at screens all day.
We know you probably don't have time to get to the acupuncturist on the regular, but Sikowitz advises that you can help yourself right at your desk, or even on the subway. "A few minutes, or even a few seconds works," she says. "If you're wearing glasses, take them off. If you're not wearing glasses, just close your eyes for a few seconds and get to that knobby spot on the inner eyebrow, from the middle of the brow to the eyebrow." Less stress is only a touch away.

Photo: Rex USA

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