By Sara Calabro
Acupuncture strengthens natural resistance to disease.
I recently came across that sentence when I was leafing through some old notes from acupuncture school. It was underlined twice and highlighted.
Although I don’t remember writing it or which of my teachers said it, the words clearly resonated with me at the time. Rereading them now, especially during peak flu season, they still do.
It’s a simple idea and yet profound. Forget endorphins. Forget improved blood circulation. Forget placebo. This is how acupuncture works—by strengthening our natural resistance to disease.
Whether we’re talking about the flu, and hence its immunity-boosting ability, or back pain, acupuncture makes us stronger so that we can naturally resist illness and pain. This is true whether it’s happening due to fired up neurotransmitters or a practitioner with exceptional bedside manner.
In the end, acupuncture works by making us better equipped to cope physically and emotionally.
The acupuncture flu shot
For the above-state reasons, acupuncture is primarily a preventive form of medicine—it makes us stronger so that we can avoid disease rather than dealing with it after it happens.
The following four acupuncture points strengthen immunity and will improve your chances of avoiding the flu this year. If you’ve already suffered through the flu, these four points will help prevent a recurrence.
In between regular acupuncture treatments—the best way to stay healthy throughout flu season—you can press these points yourself. You also can perform the routine on children or other loved ones who are in extra need of an immunity boost.Kidney 27
Kidney 27 is an immune-boosting super star, and especially helpful for people who are prone to upper respiratory flu symptoms. The Kidney system is said to grasp Lung Qi, meaning it helps distribute the air that enters the lungs throughout the rest of the body. When this interplay doesn’t happen correctly, shortness of breath and cough can occur as well as fatigue because your body is not being properly oxygenated. Kidney 27 is easily accessible, located about one inch from the midline on the lower border of the collar bone.Large Intestine 11
Although better known as a fever-reducing point, Large Intestine 11 also is used preventively for colds and flus, and other immune-compromising conditions. In fact, one well-known style of Japanese acupuncture (Kiiko Matsumoto’s) considers Large Intestine 11 to be the master immune point in the body. It’s actually a point that falls just slightly below and outside Large Intestine 11. The exact location is determined according to sensitivity in that area. The most sensitive spot is usually the most effective when pressed or needled. Find Large Intestine 11 at the lateral (thumb side) edge of the elbow crease. Learn more about Large Intestine 11’s uses and location here.Lung 7
Make a thumbs-up sign. When you do that, you’ll see a depression at the base of your thumb (referred to as the anatomical snuffbox). From that depression, Lung 7 is located approximately two finger widths up your arm. This acupuncture point is good for bolstering your body’s defensive energy, helping to keep your immune system strong. Symptomatically, Lung 7 is a frequently used point for cough, headache and stiff neck.Stomach 36
Stomach 36 is one of the most effective acupuncture points for strengthening the immune system and recovering from fatigue. Acupuncturists often incorporate this point into treatments because it is such an energizing point. Stomach 36 is found about a hand length below the patella of the knee, just outside the prominent tibia bone. Sometimes pressing this point, if it’s done firmly enough, will produce a strong sensation that travels down the leg. Learn more about Stomach 36’s uses and location here.
How to do the routine
Here are a few quick tips on performing acupressure on these points:
- Before performing acupressure on any of these points, get into a comfortable position from which you can easily access all four points (don’t worry—not at the same time!).
- Begin with Kidney 27 and work your way down the body. So, the order should be Kidney 27, Large Intestine 11, Lung 7, Stomach 36.
- For Kidney 27 and Stomach 36, since you have both hands free, press the point on both sides of the body at the same time.
- For Lung 7 and Large Intestine 11, try pressing the point on each side of the body to determine whether one side is more tender than the other. If so, focus your acupressure sessions on the tender side. If both are equally tender (or not at all), you can pick either, or take turns pressing the points on both sides.
- Spend 30 seconds on each point. Apply firm pressure while breathing steadily into your abdomen. You’ll probably find this routine very relaxing, so feel free to repeat it. Especially this time of year, you can’t overdo it.
- As a maintenance routine, shoot for doing the two-minute routine once in the morning and once before bed. If you start feeling fatigued, weak or like you might be coming down with something, up it to three times a day.
Wishing you a flu-free remainder of the winter!
Photo by Sara Calabro; point infographics from A Manual of Acupuncture
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