Acupressure Self Care: Basic Five Element Shiatsu Points You Can Use

Shiatsu (from the Japanese shi, meaning finger, and atsu, meaning pressure) is a form of massage that involves activating the qi, or energy, in the body by putting pressure on one or more points arranged on precise meridians.  All the Massage Williamsburg therapists are graduates of Swedish Institute, which teaches five-element style shiatsu in a series of four classes.  You might find that we incorporate shiatsu points during your massage, such as points on the bladder line which run alongside your spine.

Working shiatsu points is a powerful way to access and move the energy in your body to promote greater health and healing.  A full shiatsu session would incorporate an evaluation, and pressure on many points along the meridians that your practitioner finds to be out of balance.

However, you can also access the benefits of shiatsu by pressing a few points yourself.  (Please note, though, that it is generally not advisable to practice shiatsu on people who have serious illnesses such as heart disorders, multiple sclerosis or cancer.  During pregnancy, some of the points listed below should also be avoided as noted.)  Below is a list of easy-to-find shiatsu points and their uses.  Often, the shiatsu point will be the most tender location in the general area described.  Once you find the point, you can press or rub in that spot for 3-5 minutes until you feel a different sensation in the point or a change in your general condition.

  • Large Intestine 4, aka The Great Eliminator.  Use when you have a headache, intestinal distress, or pain anywhere in the body.  You can find this point by holding your thumb right up next to your hand; the point is at the bottom of the crease between your thumb and first finger (on the back of your hand).  This point is contraindicated during pregnancy.
  • Pericardium 8, aka The Palace of Anxiety.  As the name suggests, you can use this point to help dispel situational anxiety such as anxiety while flying.  This point is on the palm of your hand where your middle finger touches when you make a fist.
  • Stomach 36, aka Three More Mile.  This powerful point is said to greatly increase one’s overall energy, and especially to energize the lower leg.  You may find that this point is especially tender.  Find it by bending your knee with your foot on the floor.  Put your index finger on the soft spot just below your kneecap on the outer edge of the knee and - holding all four fingers together - mark the spot where the end of your hand hits on your leg.  Stomach 36 is level with this spot, about a thumb’s width to the outside of your shin bone.
  • Liver 3.  This point effectively addresses anger, irritability, and menstrual pain.  Find it by resting the tip of your ring finger in the webbing between your big toe and the second toe, at the top of your foot, with your index finger closer to your ankle.  With your 1st three fingers resting side by side, you will feel this point as a tender spot right past your index finger, about halfway to your ankle.
  • Kidney 1.  This point is useful for a variety of co-occuring symptoms like insomnia, night sweats, anxiety, and poor memory.  It’s located on the sole of your foot, below the ball of the big toe and 2nd toe joints.

You can find more information on these and other points at Yin Yang House.  If you are interested in learning more about acupressure points or Five Element shiatsu and acupuncture, talk to your massage therapist at Massage Williamsburg or email Margaret Hallisey, LAc at for appointment information.