Acupressure is a healing practice, in use for over 5,000 years, based on a theory of 14 described energy--also known as chi--pathways that influence body functions and health. Although there is evidence that suggests it may have originated in Europe, it is mostly associated with Asian cultures, where it has developed into a comprehensive system of medicine. It has been documented to be effective for numerous health conditions, in multiple studies. The World Health Organization, in the 1970s, listed 40 disease processes that are helped by this approach. The endocrine system, including the thyroid gland, can be helped by acupressure therapy.
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Various points found on several different meridians are used to treat hypothyroidism. Skya Abbate, D.O.M., recommends Governing Vessel 7 to bring up yang energy and for its benefits to hormonal function. A point called Yintang, located between the eyebrows, activates the pituitary, which, in turn, controls the thyroid. A group of four Japanese points, called Naganos, works as a blood tonic. A point around the navel has an indirect effect on the thyroid by activating the three meridians that control chi--the spleen, lung and kidney--thereby supporting the thyroid. Similarly, Kidney 7 and Spleen 6 benefit the thyroid by tonifying the kidneys.
Hyperthyroidism poses a greater treatment challenge than hypothyroidism, says Abbatte, explaining that the type of energy that needs to be brought up in the condition, the yin energy, is also at the deepest level and more difficult to access and influence. For this reason, hyperthyroid patients tend to be more resistant to treatment. Points on the ears are recommended, such as Shenmen, which calms the heart, a kidney point that helps with fatigue, which paradoxically, can be a symptom in hyperthyroidism, and a point for the liver to reduce agitation and nervousness. Also, a brain point is used for its contribution to settling the mind and balancing the nervous system, and spleen and stomach points that address insomnia.
Acupressure points can be contacted using fingertips, elbows, knuckles or other blunt objects, such as a pencil eraser. The website Eclectic Energy describes two ways to apply a contact to manipulate energy to achieve the desired effect. One technique is a straightforward pressing, or "reinforcing" approach, done for 30 seconds to two minutes. This concentrates energy, increasing it in the area around the point. The other technique, called "reducing," uses counterclockwise rotations of the contact instrument and has the effect of dispersing or decreasing energy in the area of the contact. The two techniques can be used consecutively to move and balance energy, as needed.
Thyroid problems often mimic other conditions, which makes them complicated to diagnose. Treating thyroid conditions also poses a notorious challenge and qualified medical help should be sought in conjunction with acupressure treatments. Avoid applying pressure in a forceful, abrupt or painful manner. Certain parts of the body, such as around the lymph areas of the underarms and groin, are more sensitive than other areas. Similarly, pain sensitivity varies among individuals and should be acknowledged when treating a friend or family member.
Certain acupressure points are contraindicated during pregnancy because of their ability to induce uterine contractions. Points located at places where there are abrasions or other damage to the skin should be avoided. Medical emergencies, transmissible infections, and advanced conditions such as cancer require medical attention.