Some people experiencing frequent bloating may turn to alternative or complementary therapies to help improve symptoms, such as acupressure. While studies are limited, some acupoints may be beneficial for bloating.

Bloating is a feeling of fullness in the abdomen or belly that may cause discomfort or pain for some people. Excess gas is a common cause of bloating. Other digestive issues may also cause bloating, such as constipation, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

People may try alternative therapies to help improve symptoms of bloating, such as herbal remedies, yoga, and acupressure.

Acupressure is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice in which a practitioner applies manual pressure to specific points of the body. It is similar to acupuncture but uses fingertip pressure instead of needles. Both practices have been in use for more than 2,500 years.

Most acupressure studies are small. Researchers need to conduct more studies with larger groups of participants to confirm their findings.

This article examines whether acupressure can help bloating. It also discusses the specific acupressure points that may reduce bloating and related symptoms.

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Acupressure involves a practitioner applying manual pressure to certain points of the body, triggering specific responses. TCM practitioners believe that an energy, or “qi,” flows through the body in pathways called meridians. They say that when qi does not flow freely, it can lead to illness.

TCM practitioners use pressure points, known as acupoints, along specific meridians in the body to restore the flow of qi and health. Traditional theory suggests there are 361 classical acupoints along 14 meridians.

Little research explores acupressure’s effects on bloating, specifically. However, some research observes the effect of interventions, such as acupressure and acupuncture, on gastrointestinal function and symptoms of bloating, nausea, and delayed passing of gas and stool after surgery. These interventions may increase a person’s comfort and recovery and reduce their hospital stay and healthcare costs.

Learn more about acupressure.

Zu San Li, which translates as “leg 3 miles,” is acupoint 36 on the stomach meridian (ST36). Its position is 3 centimeters (cm) below the knee joint along the outer edge of the shin bone.

Practitioners may use ST36 for the following:

A 2023 study included people recovering from colorectal cancer surgery. One group received acupressure at ST36 for 5 days following surgery, while the other group had gentle skin rubbing.

The study found that compared with the skin rubbing group, the acupressure group experienced a quicker passage of gas, a shorter time until their first bowel movement, and reduced bloating.

Hegu is acupoint 4 on the large intestine meridian (LI4). Hegu translates roughly as “junction valley.” LI4’s position is in the fleshy depression between the thumb and index finger, where the two metacarpal bones meet.

Practitioners commonly use LI4 to treat:

A 2017 study investigated the effect of two acupressure sessions at LI4 and ST36 after cesarean delivery on bloating, excess gas, and time to pass stool. The study compared a treatment group with a control group with no acupressure.

The acupressure group had a shorter time until the presence of bowel sounds compared with the control group and a reduced time until the passage of gas. The study found no significant difference between the time to first bowel movements.

Nei Guan is pressure point 6 on the pericardium meridian (P6). Nei Guan may translate as “inner pass.” Its location is on the inner arm around 3 finger breadths toward the body from the wrist crease between the palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis muscles.

TCM theory and related research indicate that P6 may:

  • calm the mind
  • soothe the nerves
  • regulate qi
  • relieve pain
  • regulate mood
  • reduce anxiety
  • suppress the vomiting reflex

A 2015 study compared the effects of acupressure with regular postoperative care and postoperative care only after stomach cancer surgery. The researchers found that acupressure at P6 and ST36 points were more effective at reducing pain and the time until passing gas following surgery than postoperative care alone.

Tian Shu, translated as “celestial pivot,” lies on the stomach meridian at point 25 (ST25). ST25 is on the upper abdomen and 2 thumb widths to the side of the navel.

TCM practitioners say ST25 may help with the following:

A 2021 study aimed to determine the effects of acupressure at ST25, CV12, TH6, and HT7 after surgery to remove the gallbladder. The acupressure group experienced reduced pain, increased intestinal sounds, and a shorter time to first bowel movements than the control group.

Zhongwan, which translates as “middle epigastrium,” is on the conception vessel meridian at acupoint 12 (CV12). CV12 is around 4 thumb widths above the center of the navel.

Practitioners consider CV12 a therapeutic point for conditions related to digestive organs, such as the stomach, spleen, and pancreas.

A small 2019 study assessed the effect of acupressure treatment at CV12, CV4, and ST25 on constipation in people with advanced cancer. The researchers found that 3 consecutive days of acupressure significantly improved symptoms of constipation compared with the control group.

Some people may consider trying acupressure to reduce bloating and accompanying symptoms. There is little research that specifically evaluates acupressure and bloating. However, there are positive results in small studies investigating acupressure points and the passing of gas and bowel movements after surgery.

Acupoints that may be useful for bloating include Zu San Li ST36, Hegu LI4, Nei Guan P6, Tian Shu ST25, and Zhongwan CV12.

Studies indicate these acupoints may reduce bloating, improve the passage of gas and stool, and reduce symptoms of constipation. Researchers need to conduct more studies with more people to confirm their findings.