What to Know About Acupressure Points for Nausea

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on February 14, 2024
3 min read

During acupressure, gentle pressure is put on certain parts of your body to relieve anxiety, pain, or nausea.

You may be familiar with acupuncture, which involves thin needles inserted into your body to treat illnesses. Acupressure is similar but doesn’t involve any needles. Acupressure is done by tapping a specific spot on the body with your finger, or by rubbing small circles around the area.

In traditional Chinese medicine, meridians are located throughout your body. It’s believed that these are energy pathways that connect the surface of your body with your internal organs.

These points are called acupoints. It’s thought that illnesses and disorders of the internal organs are reflected at or under the surface of your skin.

Putting pressure on these acupoints may relieve nausea caused by a variety of conditions and treatments, from motion sickness to pregnancy to chemotherapy. These nausea pressure points include: 

Pericardium 6 (P6). This is known as your nei kuan acupressure point. When you wear motion sickness wristbands, this is the acupoint that’s pressed to relieve nausea.

To try this nausea pressure point:

  1. Hold your hand up with your palm open
  2. Put the first three fingers of your other hand across your wrist.
  3. Place your thumb just below your index finger. You should be able to feel two large tendons. These are tissues that connect your bones and muscles.  
  4. Use your thumb or index finger to firmly massage this point for a few minutes.  Repeat on your other wrist.

Stomach 36 (ST36 or Zu San Li). This is also an acupressure point for nausea. To find this acupoint:

  1. Sit down.
  2. Place your index finger 4 finger-widths below your knee cap and 1 finger width away from your shin bone.
  3. The ST36 acupoint is located on the outside of your shin bone.

Large Intestine 4 (LI4 or He Gu). Acupressure at this spot along with ST36 may help with your gastrointestinal function and relieve nausea.

Acupressure at this acupoint is also said to help with pain and headaches. To make use of this pressure point: 

  1. Place your thumb in the fleshy space between your thumb and index finger
  2. Press down firmly on this spot for five minutes
  3. Repeat on your other hand

Here are some tips for giving someone acupressure:

  • Have the person sit or lie down comfortably.
  • Start with a few deep breaths to help the person relax.
  • Warm your hands before starting acupressure.
  • Rub in small circles or tap with your finger.
  • Apply pressure for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Use light or medium pressure, depending on what the person prefers.

There are very few risks to using acupressure, except:

  • If you press too hard, the skin may bruise and be painful.
  • If you’re pregnant, be careful with using certain acupressure points, like Large Intestine 4 and Liver 3.

Several studies have shown that acupressure may help control nausea.

Nausea often accompanies migraines. A study found that pressing on the nei kuan acupressure points helped reduce nausea in people who have migraines.

In a study of 17 women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, finger acupressure at P6 and ST36 helped to decrease the intensity of their nausea.

Researchers say that acupressure at the nei kuan point significantly reduced the number of cases of postoperative vomiting and nausea up to 24 hours after operation.