In traditional Chinese medicine, pain in the extremities, especially when it occurs in the joints, indicates congestion in the flow of qi, or vital life energy. Acupressure can help by restoring the abundant flow of qi, which in turn can reduce inflammation, warm the tendons and ease pain in your fingers. Consult your doctor if your pain is severe or recurring.
Your body derives qi from two main sources, according to TCM: food and your environment. Under normal circumstances, this qi flows abundantly through subtle channels to support your internal organs, bones, tendons, muscles and nerves. If you don’t consume enough easily digestible foods that agree with you, joint and tendon problems can arise, according to Iona Teeguarden, Jin Shin Do acupressure practitioner and co-author of “A Complete Guide to Acupressure.” Exposure to cold and damp conditions can mean that the qi you absorb from your environment congeals in the channels rather than circulating freely, which can cause swelling and pain. Repetitive strain and injuries to the fingers can also block the smooth flow of qi.
TCM adds emotional stresses to the list of potential causes of pain anywhere in the body, notes Teeguarden. Fear, anger and frustration are emotions that can overtax the kidneys and liver. The kidneys are the organ responsible for drawing qi from our immediate environment, while the liver governs the smooth flow of qi. Any injury to either of these organ systems can cause problems in the joints and tendons, including the fingers.
Acupressure works by stimulating the flow of qi along the energy channels. Pressure points sit all along these channels, where they act like valves governing the movement of qi. If your fingers are tender, the good news is that you don’t have to work on them directly in order to gain the benefits of acupressure. Massaging key points on one part of a channel can have a positive impact on the flow of qi to another area of the body, observes Karen J. Ohlson, writer and yoga practitioner in Oakland, California, in the 2005 issue of “Yoga Journal.”
If your fingers are swollen and hot as well as painful, it’s a sure sign that energy is trapped there, observes Shoshanna Katzman, vice president of the National Qigong Association and author of “Qigong for Staying Young.” Your best bet is to massage the kidney channel. This channel loops around the ankle bone on the inside of your leg. Four pressure points sit on top, on either side, and just below the edges of the ankle bone, in the natural dips between the bone and tendons, according to the Yin Yang House website. Probe these areas until you find a point that feels sore or tender. Press and hold each of these points for a minute or so, then do the other ankle. If your fingers are too sore to press the points, use the eraser end of a pencil.
Some conditions are too severe for you to treat with self-administered acupressure. If your finger pain is intense or long lasting and your doctor has ruled out serious injury, you might benefit from seeing a TCM practitioner. A professional acupressure therapist or acupuncturist can give you a complete TCM diagnosis, deeply stimulate any relevant pressure points and recommend a dietary protocol that can help you restore the smooth circulation of qi to your fingers.