The explosion of research centering on the benefits offered by massage therapy clearly demonstrates the modality’s ability to reduce fatigue:
- As published in Alternative Therapies for Health and Medicine, hospital nursing and physician staff members were provided massage therapy, relaxation therapy and music therapy. All of these therapies significantly reduced anxiety, depression and fatigue as well as increased vigor.
- As published in the Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, patients with chronic fatigue syndrome experienced a reduction in depressed mood, fatigue, anxiety and stress hormone (cortisol) levels immediately following massage therapy.
- As published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, massage therapy (as compared to transcutaneous electrical stimulation) improved sleep patterns and decreased pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression and cortisol levels in adults with fibromyalgia.
- As published in the Journal of Nursing Research, acupressure followed by leg massage eases fatigue and depression in people with end-stage renal disease.
Acupressure for Fatigue
While there are just as many variations of fatigue as there are ways to help it, acupressure provides a solid theoretical basis and effective means for its treatment. Traditional Chinese Medicine thoroughly chronicles and seeks to balance energy flow within the body’s meridians. This intricate system of healing has been thoroughly studied and relied upon by acupuncturists, but massage therapists performing acupressure can also utilize this vast pool of therapeutic information.
Traditional Chinese Medicine discovered that when performed excessively, certain activities strain the energetic balance in specific meridians. This strain can result in weakened immunity and fatigue. Administering acupressure to specific points along these meridians can correct the offending imbalance and increase the client’s energy.
According to Michael Reed Gach, PhD’s book, Acupressure’s Potent Points, the following activities can result in fatigue:
- Excessive standingdamages the bladder and kidney meridians, which can cause fatigue and low backaches. To restore these meridians, stimulate the following points:
- Bladder 23 – located approximately two-finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the second lumbar vertebrae, on the quadratus lumborum muscle.
- Bladder 52 – located approximately four-finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the second lumbar vertebrae, on the quadratus lumborum muscle.
- Kidney 27 – located in the depression on the lower border of the clavicle, approximately three finger widths lateral to the sternum.
- Kidney 3 – located in the depression between the medial malleolus and tendo-calcaneus, level with the tip of the medial malleolus.
- Excess sittingcan damage the stomach and spleen meridians, contributing to fatigue, anemia and digestive disorders. To restore these meridians, stimulate the following points:
- Stomach 36 – located four finger breadths below the eye of the knee, one finger breadth lateral to the anterior crest of the tibia, in the tibialis anterior muscle.
- Spleen 6 – located four finger breadths directly above the tip of the medial malleolus, on the posterior border of the medial aspect of the tibia.
- Excess lying downcan damage the large intestine and lung meridians, which can cause fatigue, respiration difficulties and elimination problems. To restore these meridians, stimulate the following points:
- Large Intestine 4 – located in the web on the dorsum of the hand, between the first and second metacarpal bones, approximately in the middle of the second metacarpal bone on the radial side. Note: This point is contraindicated during pregnancy.
- Large Intestine 11 – When the elbow is flexed, in the depression at the lateral end of the transverse cubital crease, midway between the lateral epicondyle of the humerus and the biceps brachii tendon.
- Excess use of your eyes(as in close desk work) or emotional stress can damage the small intestine and heart meridians, causing fatigue. Pressure or tapping on the following can restore balance in these meridians:
- Conception Vessel 17 – located on the anterior midline, level with the fourth intercostal space, on the sternum.
- Heart 3 to 7 – runs along the palmar aspect of the forearm, in a line from Heart 7 (the ulnar end of the transverse wrist crease, on the radial side of the tendon flexor carpi ulnaris), to Heart 3 (in the depression between the medial end of the transverse cubital crease and the medial epicondyle of the humerus).
- Excess physical exertioncan damage the gallbladder and liver meridians, which can cause cramps, spasms and fatigue. To restore these meridians, stimulate the following points:
- Liver 3 – located in the web on the dorsum of the foot, in the depression distal to the junction of the first and second metatarsal bones.
- Gallbladder 34 – located in the depression anterior and inferior to the head of the fibula.
Asking the proper questions of a client during an intake interview can reveal excessive activities in their lifestyle that may be creating a fatigue-causing imbalance. For example, a client experiencing fatigue who sits at a computer all day likely has imbalances in the spleen, stomach, heart and small intestine meridians. Applying acupressure to the points most likely to balance these meridians could provide enormous therapeutic benefit. Massage therapists can take advantage of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s knowledge in a hands-on, healing manner to conquer the typical clinical struggle with fatigue.
Field, T., Quintino, O., Henteleff, T., Wells-Keife, L., & Delvecchio-Feinberg, G., Job stress reduction therapies, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 1997.
Field, T, Sunshine, W., Hernandez-Reif, M., Quintino, O., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C., & Burman, I. Chronic fatigue syndrome: Massage therapy effects on depression and somatic symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome, Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 1997.
Gach, Michael Reed, PhD, “Acupressure’s Potent Points”, Bantam Books, 1990.
Liangyue, Deng, et al., “Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion”, Foreign Languages Press, Beijuing, 1987.
Rho, Yi-Ching, RN, Shiow-Luan Tsay, RN, PhD, Acupressure for Fatigue and Depression in End-Stage Renal Disease, Journal of Nursing Research, 2004.
Sunshine, W., Field, T., Schanberg, S., Quintino, O., Fierro, K., Kuhn, C., Burman, I., and Schanberg, S., Fibromyalgia benefits from massage therapy and transcutaneous electrical stimulation, Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 1996.