What is a blood stop?
In Traditional Thai Medicine, the Wind element provides energy for movement in all activities and functions of the body. An interesting technique in Traditional Thai massage is ‘opening the wind gate.’ In English, this technique is called a ‘blood stop’ or ‘stopping the blood.’ These terms refer to an arterial compression technique which also exists in Indian yoga.
To do a blood stop, a skilled practitioner applies direct pressure with their palms, feet, elbows or knees on specific key acupressure points, that is, “wind gates” of the body. This pressure temporarily slows down the normal flow of blood to the extremities (legs, feet, arms, and hands). The pressure does not stop blood circulation.
A practitioner can perform a blood stop on the arteries in the groins (femoral arteries) and the armpits (axillary arteries). They can also do blood stops near the wrists or ankles. Or a practitioner can do a blood stop around the navel (umbilicus), where the Sib Sen have their starting points.
The practitioner compresses an area to reduce the blood flow and maintains the pressure for a period, generally up to a minute, before releasing it. The sensation for the recipient is a slight tingling during the pressure and then a warm glow flowing along the limb.
There are three primary locations where a practitioner performs a blood stop. First, a practitioner can perform a blood stop on the arteries in the groins (femoral arteries) and the armpits (axillary arteries). They can also do blood stops near the wrists or ankles. Finally, a practitioner can do a blood stop around the navel (umbilicus), where the Sib Sen have their starting points.
One benefit of a blood stop is that it builds a more robust circulatory system. By slowing the blood flow through the limb’s primary artery and routing it to less frequently used arteries, the technique encourages the body to build strength in secondary arteries.
Another benefit to stopping the blood involves detoxification and removal of stagnant blood. Although arterial blood flow decreases during a blood stop, venous return continues unimpeded. The suction of venous blood back towards the heart increases in the vessels of the limbs affected by the blood stop. Stagnant blood, which would ordinarily pool at the far ends of the limbs, is returned into circulation. When the pressure on the artery is released, a rush of fresh oxygenated blood courses through the arteries, capillaries and veins, further removing stagnant blood and toxins that accumulate on the walls of the blood vessels.
This technique is not appropriate for clients who are pregnant, menstruating or those with high blood pressure, varicose veins or a heart condition.
In 2014, the New Scientist magazine published an article on a ‘newly discovered’ technique to prime the heart and other organs to cope with a more severe loss of their blood supply. It is called ‘remote ischaemic conditioning,’ which involves compressing the upper arm for some minutes, restricting the blood flow.