Acupressure, a type of alternative medicine, may complement other treatments to ease anxiety. Several acupressure points for anxiety may offer relief, including areas on the hands and face.
Doctors consider acupressure a form of alternative medicine, and although it is a newer form of treatment in Western cultures, it has been part of Chinese medicine for centuries. While some research supports acupressure for anxiety, more research is the only way to prove its effectiveness.
The right pressure point depends on the type of anxiety a person feels. Some potentially effective acupressure points for anxiety include:
1. Shen Men (HT7)
Shen Men is a popular wrist acupuncture spot. Shen Men may help with:
Massage the spot for a minute at times of stress or before going to sleep.
2. Yin Tang (EXHN3)
Yin Tang, which is above the nose at the exact midpoint between the two eyebrows, can help relieve general anxiety. Acupressure practitioners also say that it can help with anxiety-related symptoms such as:
Activate this point by massaging the area in slow, circular motions for up to 5 minutes.
3. Hegu (LI4)
To find the Hegu point, locate the webbed area between the thumb and index finger. Then move the fingers slightly down so that they are between the base of the thumb and index finger. Acupressure devotees say that Hegu can help with:
- headaches, especially tension headaches
Apply firm, circular pressure with the thumb for up to 5 minutes. Massage the point on both hands.
4. Great Abyss (LU9)
To find the Great Abyss point, extend the arm slightly out and turn the palm up. At the side of the wrist nearest the thumb, look for a slight indent very near the edge of the wrist. Proponents say that this point can help with anxiety, including some physical anxiety symptoms, such as:
Gently massage the point in a slow, circular motion for about a minute. Repeat on the other wrist.
If a person is experiencing frequent chest pain, they should speak to a doctor. If the chest pain and heart palpitations are severe, and the person feels nauseated and dizzy, immediate medical help is necessary, as they could be experiencing a heart attack.
5. Shou San Li (LI10)
Acupressure proponents say that Shou San Li affects energy flow to the large intestine. Applying pressure to this point may help ease a range of anxiety symptoms, including:
To find it, position two fingers horizontally directly below the outer elbow while bending the joint to about 90 degrees. Massage gently for 4–5 seconds.
6. Governor Vessel (DU20)
To find it, look for the exact center of the top of the head. Gently massage for a few seconds, gradually working up to longer massages.
Acupressure and its cousin acupuncture have played an important role in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Practitioners believe that many illnesses occur when the body’s qi, or natural energy, gets out of balance. Activating certain pressure points on the body can help rebalance that energy, restoring health.
Scientists have only recently begun testing acupressure. Many studies on the practice are small or poorly designed, making it difficult to draw reliable conclusions. Without more data, it is impossible to know how well acupressure works, and it is unwise to use it as a substitute for standard medical care.
However, preliminary research on acupressure suggests that it may help. Doctors have not found any evidence to suggest that acupressure interacts with other medical treatments, making it a safe option to use alongside medication, therapy, and other remedies.
A handful of studies suggest that acupressure may work for anxiety.
After treatment, the group who received real acupressure treatment had lower reported anxiety. Acupressure did not, however, lower covert anxiety — anxiety of which a person might not be consciously aware.
A 2012 clinical trial assessed the ability of acupressure to ease anxiety relating to surgery. The researchers gave 35 participants acupressure, then administered fake acupressure to an additional 35 patients. Both groups reported reductions in anxiety.
However, the anxiety reduction was larger in the group that had real acupressure. Moreover, that group had small but statistically significant improvements in physical measures of anxiety, such as heart rate and respiratory rate.
A 2015 study assessed the effects of acupressure on overall emotional well-being in people undergoing dialysis. The researchers looked at anxiety, stress, depression, and general emotional distress in 54 people whom they gave acupressure and 54 individuals who had only their usual treatment. Those who received acupressure experienced a reduction in depression and stress, and an increase in their psychological well-being.
A 2018 review examined several acupressure studies to investigate the effects of acupressure on people’s well-being. Overall, the researchers found that both acupressure and sham acupressure reduced anxiety, suggesting some placebo effect. However, real acupressure was more effective, which means that the placebo effect alone cannot explain the benefits of acupressure.
While acupressure may help some people with anxiety, researchers have thoroughly tested many other interventions. Some strategies that may help include:
- Therapy: Therapy can help a person identify effective strategies for managing their anxiety, controlling automatic negative thoughts, and coping with trauma. The state board of health can confirm all licensed therapists in a person’s state.
- Medication: Some people may find that medications help. Fast-acting anti-anxiety medications can ease symptoms of panic, while antidepressants may help people with chronic anxiety and anxiety relating to depression.
- Alternative medicine: In addition to acupressure, some people report relief from other complementary approaches, such as massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic care. It is important that people seek a practitioner licensed in their state.
While alternative and home remedies can sometimes ease anxiety, chronic anxiety can be debilitating. It is also highly treatable. A person should see a doctor if:
- anxiety is chronic or severe enough to interfere with daily life
- home or alternative remedies do not work
- a person does not get relief from therapy
- a person experiences side effects associated with medication, or medication does not work
- a person experiences thoughts of suicide or self-harm
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can call 800-799-4889.
Anxiety can be a brief annoyance or a chronic medical condition. People with anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), may struggle with anxiety over the long term.
Although this can be frustrating, anxiety does respond to treatment. A person can work with a trusted medical provider and experiment with various treatment options to get the best results.
Anxiety can feel overwhelming and, sometimes, insurmountable. With the right treatment, though, a person can overcome their anxiety. They can talk to a doctor or mental health professional about treatment options.