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 Integrative Medicine: Acupressure for Menstrual Cramps 
 
Acupressure massage is an ancient Oriental healing method that applies finger pressure to specific points on the skin surface to help prevent and treat illness. Acupressure has had a long and distinguished history as an effective healing tool for many centuries and is often used along with herbs to promote the healing of disease.

When specific acupressure points are pressed, they create changes on two levels. On the physical level, acupressure affects muscular tension, blood circulation, and other physiological parameters. On a more subtle level, traditional Oriental healing believes that acupressure also helps to build the body's life energy to promote healing. In fact, acupressure is based on the belief that there exists within the body a life energy called chi. It is different from yet similar to electromagnetic energy. Health is thought to be a state in which the chi is equally distributed throughout the body and is present in sufficient amounts. It is thought to energize all the cells and tissues of the body.

The life energy is thought to run through the body in channels called meridians. When working in a healthy manner, these channels distribute the energy evenly throughout the body, sometimes on the surface of the skin and at times deep inside the body in the organs. Disease occurs when the energy flow in a meridian is blocked or stopped. As a result, the internal organs that correspond to the meridians can show symptoms of disease. The meridian flow can be corrected by stimulating the points on the skin surface. These points can be treated easily by hand massage. When the normal flow of energy through the body is resumed, the body is believed to heal itself spontaneously.

Stimulation of the acupressure points through finger pressure can be done by you or by a friend following simple instructions. It is safe, painless, and does not require the use of needles. It can be used without the years of specialized training needed for insertion of needles.

How to Perform Acupressure
Acupressure is done either by yourself or with a friend when you are relaxed. Your room should be warm and quiet. Make sure your hands are clean and nails trimmed (to avoid bruising yourself). If your hands are cold, put them under warm water.

Work on the side of the body that has the most discomfort. If both sides are equally uncomfortable, choose whichever one you want. Working on one side seems to relieve the symptoms on both sides. Energy or information seems to transfer from one side to the other.

Hold each point indicated in the exercise with a steady pressure for one to three minutes. Apply pressure slowly with the tips or balls of the fingers. It is best to place several fingers over the area of the point. If you feel resistance or tension in the area on which you are applying pressure, you may want to push a little harder. However, if your hand starts to feel tense or tired, lighten the pressure a bit. Make sure your hand is comfortable. The acupressure point may feel somewhat tender. This means the energy pathway or meridian is blocked.

During the treatment, the tenderness in the point should slowly go away. You may also have a subjective feeling of energy radiating from this point into the body. Many patients describe this sensation as very pleasant. Don't worry if you don't feel it, not everyone does. The main goal is relief from your symptoms.

Breathe gently while doing each exercise. The point that you are to hold is shown in the photograph accompanying the exercise. All of these points correspond to specific points on the acupressure meridians. You may massage the points once a day or more during the time that you have symptoms.

(Excerpted from The Menopause Self Help Book ISBN: 0890877769)
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 About The Author
Susan Lark MDDr. Susan M. Lark is one of the foremost authorities on women's health issues and is the author of nine books. She has served on the faculty of Stanford University Medical School...more
 
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