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Press Away the Pain

The next time a headache shatters your focus, try a simple remedy drawn from acupressure -- acupuncture's do-it-yourself sibling. This ancient practice uses the fingertips to stimulate points on the body where your vital energy, or qi, is most likely to get stuck and contribute to pain. 

"Qi moves through the body along energy pathways, or meridians, like traffic on a highway," explains Matthew Bauer, author of "The Healing Power of Acupressure and Acupuncture" and a licensed acupuncturist in La Verne, California. "If things get congested, then the energy isn't moving the way it should." A headache, he says, is a 10-car pileup of qi. 

To get traffic flowing again, he recommends working with an acupressure point lower in the body, such as the hand, which helps draw energy away from the head. Convenient to do just about anywhere (unless you're driving), this technique will keep your day running smoothly.

Acupressure Point: Union Valley
What it does: Stimulates a point along the energy pathway that runs from the hand all the way to the head, signaling the body to shift excess energy away from the head. Pressing this point can also help relieve muscular tension.

How to find it: Stretch all five fingers of your left hand. Union Valley is in the small mound of flesh that forms at the bottom of the crease between your thumb and palm.

How to activate it: Place the thumb and index finger of your right hand on the top and bottom of the Union Valley point of your left hand. Start with a light touch, then move to moderate pressure -- though you don't have to go for broke. "It's better to underdo than to overdo," Bauer advises. Hold this steady pressure for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing rhythmically and evenly through your nose. Repeat three times, then switch and perform the steps on your other hand.

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