When a headache hits you, all you want is quick relief. No matter what the root cause or trigger behind the headache is, the condition can be understandably painful and frustrating. The three major headache types – migraine, cluster headache, and tension headache – can be mild or debilitating.
Most of us resort to our personalized, long lists of remedies to improve the symptoms and relieve pain. Ranging from medications to essential oils, ice packs, ear plugs, visualization exercises, there are plenty of options we mostly try to ease out the pain with.
While most of these tools can help manage your symptoms, not everyone gets the desired relief, or the headache becomes a chronic condition that starts striking you frequently. In such cases, you may want a better alternative measure to get quick relief from the headache along with preventing its frequent onset.
That’s where acupressure for a headache can come in handy. Acupressure is an ancient healing art that has been around for more than 5,000 years. It’s the third most preferred treatment for pain relief. Acupressure works on the belief that the 12 essential meridians in the human body connect vital organs, hence creating a network system of communication across the body.
Can Acupressure Help to Relieve Headache Relief?
While supporters of traditional Chinese medications believe that stimulating certain specific pressure points (meridians) on our body through acupressure relieves headache(1), there’s a lack of evidence to support their belief and more research is required in this regard.
Researchers believe that although acupressure doesn’t directly cure a headache, it complements other modes of treatments such as medicines to increase its effectiveness. Besides, acupressure helps release endorphins, reduce tension, relieve stress, and improve circulation – hence supporting the medications to cure headaches.
[Also Read: Natural Remedies for Headaches]
How Does Acupressure Therapy Work for Headache Cure?
Acupressure specialists use their devices, feet, elbow, palms, or fingers to put pressure on your body’s acupoints. An acupressure session generally lasts for around an hour so it will be beneficial for you if you opt for multiple sessions. These multiple sessions can help you get the best results.
Acupressure helps in restoring the balance and health of the body and regulating the different opposing forces of yang (i.e., positive energy) and yin (i.e., negative energy). Many proponents believe that acupressure not just treats our body’s energy fields but our spirit, emotions, and mind, too! It helps in dealing with different types of headaches.
Numerous Western practitioners claim that they can’t directly attribute acupuncture or acupressure process for headache relief. Instead, the credit results could have been achieved due to several other factors, including the release of the body’s natural painkiller, improved circulation, and reduced muscle tension.
[Read: Yoga for Headache Relief]
What Does Science Say About Acupressure for Headache
There are not many scientific theories that support the concept of acupressure for headache. There’s more research required to support the proponents of traditional Chinese treatment. However, a few researchers have intensely studied how acupressure or massage on shoulders and the head can help relieve headache symptoms.
In a brief study carried out in 2002, researchers investigated how massage therapy helped four individuals suffering from chronic headache – with acupressure being given two to three times a week for six months.
The study concluded that acupressure proved effective in reducing the frequency of headaches after the first week itself while the number of headaches fell from around seven headaches a week to just two. Also, the study found that the average duration of their headache also decreased by 50% from 8 hours to around 4.
Acupressure Points for Headache Relief
Acupressure(2) treatment for headache yields good results when practiced in combination with various other modes of treatments such as medicines. Read below to know five pressure points to relieve headaches:
Acupoint Shoulder Well is found at your shoulder’s edge, halfway between the neck base and shoulder point.
For using the Shoulder Well pressure point:
- Apply circular, firm pressure on this point with your thumb for about 1 minute.
- Switch to repeat Point 1 on the other side.
- The “Shoulder Well” can aid in relieving stiffness and cramps in your shoulders and neck, thus reducing the headache.
Located between the two eyebrows – right where the nose bridge meets the forehead, the third eye acupressure point is another stress relieving point which one can target for acupressure for headache.
- Apply a good pressure on this point with your index finger for at least 1 minute.
- Pressure applied on “third eye” acupoint is said to relieve sinus pressure and eyestrain that cause headaches frequently.
You can locate drilling bamboo pressure points on both sides at the indentation where your nose bridge meets the eyebrows’ ridge.
To use the Drilling Bamboo acupoint for treating headaches:
- Apply pressure to both the points simultaneously with the index fingers.
- Hold for about 10 seconds.
- Gently release your fingers and repeat.
Applying pressure on Drilling Bamboo acupoints can improve the symptoms of headache caused by sinus pain or eyestrain.
Gates of Consciousness
Located at your skull’s base in parallel hollow regions between the vertical muscles of your neck, gates of consciousness acupressure point is next in the list to relieve stress and get rid of a headache. To use Gates of Consciousness acupoints:
- Put your middle and index fingers on these acupoints.
- Firmly press upwards on both the sides simultaneously for about 10 seconds.
- Gently release your fingers and repeat.
Applying firm pressure to these acupoints can aid in relieving tension headaches
Urinary Bladder Channel UB10
For people suffering from chronic headache, particularly tension headaches, acupoints on the channel of your urinary bladder, mainly UB10, located at the nape of the neck, can be pressed for around 10 seconds. Pressure applied to UB10 helps treat fatigue and enhance alertness.
[Read: Acupuncture for Headache Relief]
How is an Acupressure Session Carried Out?
Acupressure is typically administered by an acupuncture practitioner, with the patient lying down or sitting on an acupuncture or massage table.
Acupuncture can be self-administered, still, consulting an experienced acupuncturist can help you get the best results. In general, acupressure for headache is done with the knuckle, finger, or thumb to apply firm but gentle pressure to a specific pressure point.
As such, the pressure is frequently increased for around 30 seconds, then held securely for some 30 seconds to a maximum of 2 minutes, and gradually reduced for about 30 seconds. You can repeat the process 3 to 5 times.
You can find the pressure point “P6” by rotating your arm to ensure your palm faces up. Position your thumb at the middle of your wrist’s crease (where your hand touches the wrist) – then place it two finger width away towards your elbow from your crease. You can find the pressure point between the two major tendons.
[Read: Home Remedies for Headache]
Tips and Precautionary Measures
While acupressure is mostly safe, there are a few tips you should remember to ensure you get the maximum benefit of the process. Keeping these tips and precautions in mind can help you get the best result and save you from any mishap to happen. Some valuable tips and suggestions for practicing acupressure for headache are listed below:
- If you feel any pain while undergoing an acupressure session, make sure you inform the therapist immediately.
- Do not apply pressure on sensitive and fragile areas like the face.
- If you are suffering from any health condition such as recent injury or fracture, cancer, osteoporosis, easy bruising, heart disease, bleeding disorder, diabetes, or if you use some antiplatelet or anticoagulant medicines like warfarin, make sure you speak to a registered medical practitioner before going for acupressure.
- Pregnant women must consult their healthcare physician before undergoing acupressure for headache.
- Avoid doing acupressure on varicose veins, bruises, open wounds, or any part of your body that is infected.
Though using acupoints for relieving headaches is not studied yet, some limited studies suggest that massaging the shoulders and head can aid in relieving headaches.
Since reflexology is a non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive way to relieve headaches, it is incredibly safe. The only thing to remember is that acupressure is just a complementary treatment. If you experience extremely intense and recurring headaches, consider consulting professional medical assistance.
Pressure points to relieve headache are free, natural, and safe measures with no ultra-expensive price tags or unwanted side effects. Acupressure for headache relief can bring about great results for people of all ages, more so when performed under the guidance of an experienced acupressure trainer.