Learn reflexology and acupressure points that can help relieve some of the common side effects of the COVID vaccine, including pain relief and how to reduce swelling after the COVID vaccine.
If you’re thinking of getting a COVID vaccine or you still need to get your booster shot, try some simple pressure points that can help alleviate pain and swelling in your arm, and other symptoms such as headaches and fatigue.
In this article, you’ll also learn what these side effects have in common from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective so that you better understand what’s going on in your body and how you can bounce back faster.
How to Get Faster Relief from Common Side Effects of the COVID Vaccine
Recently, a student in my Sole Mastery program asked about Chinese Reflexology points to help her and her husband prepare for getting the COVID vaccine.
According to the World Health Organization, “Typical side effects include pain at the injection site, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills and diarrhoea.”
To address these common COVID vaccine side effects with Chinese Reflexology and acupressure, it’s helpful to understand the Chinese Medicine perspective on these symptoms. This particular combination of symptoms is similar to what Chinese Medicine would refer to as wind-cold invasion.
In Chinese Medicine, there are two types of common colds: wind-cold and wind-heat. The names for these different types of colds give clues on identifying which type of cold a person has.
Wind-cold colds are due to an “invasion of cold” in the body. This is TCM lingo for a germ that upsets the body’s balance leading to symptoms that one would see if the body is too cool.
For example, when you go outside on a freezing cold day, your body tenses up and you feel chilled.
The TCM perspective is that the cold causes the body’s muscles to tense up and this constricts the flow of energy in the body. That’s what leads to the muscle aches, chills, and headaches.
In addition, because there’s too much cold in the body, processes that require heat are going to be impeded. TCM views digestion as one of the processes that requires “fire” to “cook” the food—essentially the heat helps to break food down into nutrients. If the fire is low, then food doesn’t digest as well, and this could lead to diarrhea.
Low fire also means less energy because the heat is considered part of the body’s overall life force energy. When the body is dealing with symptoms of a wind-cold invasion, it uses up a lot of energy to fight the invasion. The addition of extra cold in the body upsets the body’s natural balance between hot and cold, and the body draws on its reserve of energy to combat the cold. As a result, a person may experience fatigue and tiredness.
So you may be wondering, what about the fever? Doesn’t that indicate there’s too much “heat” inside the body? You’d be right in thinking that.
While a fever can accompany a wind-cold invasion, it’s usually a low-grade fever. If there was a wind-heat invasion, a person would have an extremely high fever.
Given that this combination of symptoms (low-grade fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills and diarrhea) is similar to wind-cold and that the vaccine was designed to target a respiratory virus, we now have some big clues to help identify which would be the best Chinese Reflexology and acupressure points to massage.
So let’s get to those points! But before we do, please note the following precautions:
Please note that the common side effects of the COVID vaccine can be due to different imbalances in the body, not just wind-cold invasion. Be sure to check with your doctor or licensed acupuncturist if you are unwell or experiencing persistent, worsening, or other symptoms.
Reflexology and Acupressure Points to Reduce Swelling and Pain
When there’s movement, there is no pain. When there’s pain, there is no movement.Traditional Chinese Medicine Saying
What this TCM saying means is that pain is due to a constriction or block in the normal flow of qi (life force energy) and blood throughout the body. When your qi and blood are flowing as they should, then there is no pain.
As you learned about wind-cold invasion, the cold inside the body causes tension and tightness, leading to aches and pain. In TCM lingo, the cold is constricting the flow of energy through the body’s energy meridians leading to pain.
With the common cold, wind-cold typically “invades” through the nose and upper respiratory tract. This affects the lungs resulting in mucus (aka runny nose) and coughing. The body is trying to expel the pathogen from the respiratory tract.
With the vaccine, the “pathogen” has been injected locally into the arm and the body is “fighting” it at the injection site. As a result, there’s swelling in the area and possible swelling in the lymph nodes. As a result, this further constricts the flow of qi and blood through the arm and shoulder, resulting in pain.
Thus, to help reduce the swelling and relieve the pain from the COVID vaccine, you need to increase the flow of qi and blood through the arm and shoulder. The following three reflexology and acupressure points help improve circulation through the shoulder and the flow of qi and blood throughout your entire body.
1) Chinese Reflexology Shoulder Point
Since people usually get the COVID vaccine injected in their upper arm, massaging the shoulder point for the corresponding arm helps improve the flow of qi and blood to and from the arm. Remember, when there’s movement, there is no pain. That’s why the shoulder reflexology point can help to relieve pain.
How to Locate and Massage the Chinese Reflexology Point for the Shoulder
- Location: The shoulder point is located on the sole of your foot. It’s the fleshy rectangular area just below the pinky toe. While you have a shoulder reflexology point on each foot, you want to focus on the one that corresponds to the arm where you got the vaccine. The left foot is for the left shoulder and the right foot is for the right shoulder.
- How to massage: To massage the shoulder point, press your thumb pad onto the point and massage in an up and down direction, where up is towards the tip of your toes and down is towards the heel. Use a firm pressure since this part of the sole is well-padded. If you’re a parent or have ever looked after little kids, think of it like the pressure you’d use to scrub away crayon marks from the dining room table. Yes, I have experience with this!!! Lol!
- How often to massage: For the shoulder point, massage this point after you’ve had the vaccine to improve circulation in the shoulder and arm. The increase in qi and blood flow also helps the body to clear away cellular waste products and injured cells that result from the swelling. Massage in an up and down direction, 2 to 3 times a day for 30 seconds, for 3 to 5 days or until the swelling is reduced (whichever happens first).
2) Large Intestine 4 – Acupressure Point
Large Intestine 4, also referred to as He Gu or LI-4, is one set of the Four Gates acupuncture points for relieving pain. When you massage this point in tandem with Liver 3 (described below), it’s a potent combination to powerfully move qi throughout the entire body, and that helps release constrictions in the body’s energy meridians.
This acupressure point also has the added benefit of releasing the exterior. It’s one of the most commonly used acupuncture points to treat the common cold. Given the similarity of COVID vaccine side effects to wind-cold invasion, this is an especially potent point to stimulate.
WARNING: Do not massage Large Intestine 4 if you are pregnant because this point is used to induce labor.
How to Locate and Massage Large Intestine 4
- Location: Large Intestine 4 is located on the back of your hand in the webbing between the thumb and index finger. To locate this point, press your thumb and index finger together, and this will cause the muscle in the area to bulge out. LI-4 is located on the highest point of the bulge. There is a Large Intestine 4 point located on each hand.
- How to massage: To massage this point, use the thumb of your opposite hand to press on the highest point of the bulge. Then relax the thumb and index finger of the hand while you continue pressing on the point with the opposite thumb. I recommend using the amount of pressure you would use to make an indent in soft clay or Play-Doh.
- How often to massage: Press and hold on the point for 30 seconds, 2 to 3 times a day, for 3 to 5 days, or until the swelling is reduced (whichever comes first).
3) Liver 3 – Acupressure Point
The second point in the Four Gates combo is Liver 3, also known as Tai Chong or LV-3. LI-4 and LV-3 are referred to as the Four Gates because there are four points in total: one on each hand and one on each foot.
Liver 3 is located along the Liver meridian in your body. In Chinese Medicine, the Liver plays an important role in ensuring the smooth flow of qi throughout the body. That’s why these acupuncture points are so useful for helping to relieve pain and reduce swelling after the COVID vaccine.
WARNING: Do not massage Liver 3 if you are pregnant because this point is used to induce labor.
How to Locate and Massage Liver 3
- Location: This point is located on the top of your foot in the webbing between the big and second toes. To locate Liver 3, gently press on your foot to find the bones for these two toes. Slide down away from the toe tips until you feel where the bones intersect. It’s like the bones form a letter V. Approximately one thumb-width above the point of the V is where Liver 3 is located.
- How to massage: Use your thumb to press and hold on this point, using the amount of pressure you would use to make an indent in soft clay or Play-Doh.
- How often to massage: Press and hold on the point for 30 seconds, 2 to 3 times a day, for 3 to 5 days or until the swelling is reduced (whichever comes first).
Reflexology and Acupressure Points to Help Detox the Lymphatic System and Boost the Immune System
Now that we’ve addressed ways to increase the flow of qi to help reduce pain and swelling, it’s time to take a slightly different approach. You also want to look at reflexology and acupuncture points that help the body detox via the lymphatic system, and also boost the immune system.
From an alternative health perspective, any foreign substance that doesn’t belong in the body can be viewed as a “toxin”—even if it promotes a positive immune response in the body. Chinese Medicine believes that “accumulated toxins” are detrimental to one’s health because if they are not flushed away in a timely manner, they impede the smooth flow of qi and blood.
The Four Gates points help get things flowing, but it’s also beneficial to support the body’s systems for flushing out toxins. Here are a couple of points to help detox and boost the immune system.
4) Lymphatic Drainage Reflexology Point
The lymphatic system helps the body remove cellular waste and also plays an important role in supporting the immune system. The Chinese Reflexology point for lymphatic drainage supports the flow of lymph through the lymphatic system, which can help clear post-injection swelling.
Since you have a lot of lymph nodes in the armpit area, and the nodes may become swollen while fighting infection, the lymphatic drainage reflexology point is helpful because it improves the flow of qi through this area.
Interestingly, this reflexology point overlaps the Liver 3 acupressure point. As a consequence, please note the following if you are pregnant.
WARNING: Do not massage the lymphatic drainage if you are pregnant because this reflexology point crosses over Liver 3, which is used to induce labor.
How to Locate and Massage the Chinese Reflexology Point for Lymphatic Drainage
- Location: You’ll find the lymphatic drainage reflexology point on both of your feet in the webbing between the bones of the big toe and second toe.
- How to massage: To massage this reflexology point, use the knuckle of your index finger to press and stroke the area, beginning at the base of the toes and stroking in ONE DIRECTION ONLY towards the point of the V that’s formed by the bones of the big toe and second toe. When you get to the bottom of the point at the V, lift up your knuckle and place it back at the base of your toes to begin another stroke. Please note if you feel any friction as you stroke, apply moisturizer or massage oil to reduce the friction since the skin on the top of the foot is much more delicate than on the sole of the foot.
- How often to massage: Massage 15 downward strokes on each foot, once per day for 3 to 5 days after the vaccine.
5) Stomach 36 – Acupressure Point
The last point we’ll cover is the acupressure point, Stomach 36 (ST-36), also known as Zu San Li. In acupuncture, this point is used to boost the immune system and improve digestion so it can help the body deal with the effects of wind-cold invasion AND address the symptom of diarrhea.
How to Locate and Massage the Stomach 36 Acupressure Point
- Location: Stomach 36 is located on the outer front side of your lower leg, just below the knee cap. There’s a Stomach 36 point on each leg.
It’s a little tricky to locate this point, so I’ll walk you through it in four steps:
- Feel for the front of your knee cap while you’re seated.
- Gently slide your fingers down to just below the knee cap. On the bottom outer edge of the knee cap, feel for a slight indentation, as marked by the top x in the diagram.
- Press the four fingers of your hand together, so that there are no gaps between the fingers.
- Place the four fingers directly below the indentation you found under your knee cap. The spot just below your fingers in line with the dent under the knee cap is where you’ll find Stomach 36. See lower x in the diagram.
- How to massage: You can massage this acupressure point on both of your legs at the same time. Make a fist with both of your hands. Then press the knuckles onto the point and massage up and down. Use a firm pressure like you would use to give yourself a comfortable massage.
- How often to massage: Massage both points on both legs simultaneously for 30 seconds, once per day, for 3 to 5 days after the vaccine.
Putting It All Together
Now that we’ve covered five beneficial Chinese Reflexology and acupressure/acupuncture points for relief from some of the common side effects of the COVID vaccine—injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills and diarrhea—let’s put it all together into a short practice routine.
Massage the following reflexology and acupuncture points after getting the COVID vaccine to help with pain relief, swelling and boosting energy levels:
- Shoulder Reflexology Point: Massage in an up and down direction, 2 to 3 times a day, for 30 seconds, for 3 to 5 days or until the swelling is reduced (whichever comes first).
- Large Intestine 4 Acupressure Point: Press and hold on the point for 30 seconds, 2 to 3 times a day, for 3 to 5 days, or until the swelling is reduced (whichever comes first). Do not massage if pregnant.
- Liver 3 Acupressure Point: Press and hold on the point for 30 seconds, 2 to 3 times a day, for 1 to 5 days, or until the swelling is reduced (whichever comes first). Do not massage if pregnant.
- Lymphatic Drainage Reflexology Point: Massage 15 downward strokes on each foot, once per day for 3 to 5 days. Do not massage if pregnant.
- Stomach 36 Acupressure Point: Massage both points on both legs simultaneously for 30 seconds, once per day, for 3 to 5 days after the vaccine.
WARNING: Do not massage Liver 3, Large Intestine 4 or the lymphatic drainage point if you are pregnant because this point is used to induce labor. I also wanted to remind you to see your health care practitioner if you are unwell or experiencing persistent, worsening, or other symptoms.
While I can’t guarantee this routine will work for everyone, I’ve heard from a number of my students who used these points to recover faster from the effects of the COVID vaccine. One student said she got her vaccine and didn’t experience any swelling at all. She’s also been regularly practicing the lymphatic detox exercise that she learned in a Qi Gong workshop available in the Sole Circle—my online membership site where you can learn more Chinese Reflexology with ongoing support from me.
Addressing Other Side Effects
Now that we’ve addressed how to reduce some of the more common side effects associated with the COVID vaccine, you may be wondering what to do if you experience other side effects. Aside from visiting your doctor, is there anything else you can to do to support your body?
I was recently reading about other side effects that may be related to the COVID vaccine such as blood clots, heavy menstrual bleeding, and shingles to name a few.
Are there reflexology points that could be helpful? Yes, absolutely!
However, it’s much more complicated and a handful of reflexology points isn’t enough. On my website, I can share point combinations that are helpful for acute (short-term) conditions that are considered relatively “simple” from a Chinese Medicine perspective. While the symptoms may be unpleasant or intense, the underlying imbalances in the body’s energy and meridians are similar for most people and can be addressed with a few points.
I can also share starting points that help bring the body back into balance, but a longer term approach with more reflexology points is usually required to turn the condition around.
You see Chinese Medicine takes a holistic approach to healing based on the individual. Sometimes symptoms clear quickly. But if a person has underlying weakness or energy blocks in their primary organs and meridians that have been ongoing for a long time, then it takes more points and more time to bring the body back into balance. That’s because the underlying imbalances need to be addressed.
Keep in mind that acupuncture and reflexology points would be supportive in this type of situation to help the body restore balance, and they certainly don’t take the place of seeing your doctor. Allow me to explain in more detail how this works.
Adverse Reactions Might Not Be Random
The symptoms a person experiences will depend on the underlying disharmonies in their body’s primary organs and meridians. Which organs and meridians are affected? How severe are the imbalances? What lifestyle factors are exacerbating the condition? E.g. overwork, stress, poor diet, etc. And, how long these imbalances have been going on?
For example, a person with weak digestive fire is going to be much more likely to experience diarrhea than someone who has strong Kidney Jing. You can think of Kidney Jing being the body’s life force energy that helps power digestion.
Similarly, someone who has been under a lot of stress for a long time is going to be more likely to experience swelling than someone who has no stress in their life—all other things being equal. That’s because stress affects the Liver, and the Liver helps ensure the smooth flow of qi throughout the body.
While I gave a couple of examples, they can’t be applied to everyone. You can’t say that every person who experiences swelling has been under stress or has a Liver imbalance, or that everyone with poor digestion has weak Kidney Jing.
Chinese Medicine: Simple Yet Complex
Chinese Medicine and Chinese Reflexology are deceptively simple at the surface level. After all, aside from getting over some squeamishness, it wasn’t that difficult to insert needles into a patient when I was studying acupuncture. Similarly, reflexology is “just massaging the feet.”
In Chinese Medicine, things aren’t so simple because the imbalances in the organs and meridians are intertwined. Different symptoms can appear for the same imbalance, and different imbalances can be at the root of the same symptoms. Treatment is equally complex.
In order to strengthen one organ and its associated meridian, you need to strengthen ALL of the organs and meridians because everything is interconnected.
That’s why I’m limited in how much I can share in a website article because it’s necessary to take a holistic approach to healing. You need to balance the body as a whole—all of the primary organs and meridians—in order to address the underlying imbalances that are at the root of the symptoms. A person needs more than a handful of reflexology points and they need a customized reflexology routine in order to best address what’s unique about their body because no two people are the same.
To support students individually, I offer in depth online programs. I find they’re the best way for you to learn how to practice the most fundamental and valuable reflexology points while also being supported in customizing your reflexology routine. In my programs, you also learn about Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and the mind body connection so that you’re empowered to choose the best and most effective healing approach for you.
I teach the introductory six-week program Sole Fundamentals in the spring. However because of COVID last year, I launched the Sole Circle membership site to offer a low cost, value-packed way to learn Chinese Reflexology with ongoing support from me.
Because people were feeling overwhelmed and time-crunched in 2020, I adapted the Sole Fundamentals program to give people more time and space for learning. It became a four-month program, and access to Sole Fundamentals was included with Sole Circle membership. That way, students could benefit from the ongoing Q&A Tea Time sessions, point labs to help them accurately locate tricky points on their feet, and supplemental courses to address the mind body connection.
I was planning to restore Sole Fundamentals back to a six-week program this year with tuition at $995. But since I was also feeling overwhelmed last year, I didn’t get around to updating the information page about the program. When I recently looked at the webpage, I realized that it still promised that Sole Fundamentals would be available with Sole Circle membership.
Since I keep my word, I’m going to offer access to the four-month version of Sole Fundamentals as part of Sole Circle membership this Summer 2021. This will be the last opportunity for you to enroll in Sole Fundamentals and save almost 50% off the regular tuition, while also getting a year of ongoing support.
In the Sole Circle, you’re supported through the monthly Q&A Tea Time where you can also submit questions in advance if you can’t join live. There’s also the monthly Point Practice for accountability, meeting fellow students from around the world and the invaluable point lab where I walk you through how to locate points using photos of feet submitted by students. Seeing a variety of different shapes and sizes helps you better locate reflexology points on yourself and on others.
Sole Circle also includes a new course or workshop every month, and many of these are exclusive to the Sole Circle because I can teach more advanced concepts when students have my ongoing support. For the soul and sole connection, there’s a quarterly Dragon Spirit Circle, exclusive Dragon Spirit meditations, and 30-day challenges where everyone supports each other. Plus, you also get 20% savings off Sole Mastery. That program is the whole enchilada when it comes to learning the Traditional Chinese Method of Reflexology.
Enrollment in the Sole Circle will be opening up in mid-July 2021.