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In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the LIV3 pressure point (on the top of your foot, in the depression between your first and second toes) is related to liver functioning and used to regulate menstruation and ease depression, while the LI4 pressure point (the fleshy area between your index finger and thumb) is related to large intestine functioning and used to relieve stress and headaches. These pressure points are often coupled together to help increase the flow of blood and energy throughout the body. (Here are 10 quick and easy ways to de-stress in under a minute.)
For the study, researchers wanted to see how activating the LIV3 pressure point and the LI4 pressure point affected the quality of life of women who experience PMS symptoms. So they divided nearly 100 women into three groups, each of which would perform their own daily 20-minute acupressure sessions on different points for 14 days leading up to their period. They did this for 3 consecutive menstrual cycles.
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The results: By their second and third menstrual cycles, the number of women with moderate to severe PMS who performed acupressure on their LIV3 or LI4 points experienced a significant reduction in depression, anxiety, and overall PMS severity compared to the placebo group—leading researchers to the conclusion that this is a safe, easy, and effective PMS treatment for women. (These 5 foods could be making your mild depression worse.)
So, how does it work? From a TCM standpoint, the root of PMS can be explained as stagnation of energy in the liver (qi), and by increasing the flow of blood and energy in the body through acupressure it’s thought that one’s mind and mood can be regulated. Scientific research also shows that stimulating acupressure points increases the release of neuro-hormones including mood-boosting serotonin and endorphins, and regulates the stress hormone cortisol.
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Want to try it out? Locate the LI4 and LIV3 pressure points and use deep, firm pressure to massage and stimulate each area for 4-5 seconds at a time. When applying acupressure, try to relax and breathe deeply as you massage the area. (Try adding a dimension of aromatherapy by turning on an essential oil diffuser as you do this.) Both pressure points were found to be equally effective, so you can choose one, or alternate. For best results, consider doing this daily in the two weeks leading up to your period.