Acupressure for Headaches
Headaches are a common condition that is experienced by almost everyone. Rather than take over-the-counter painkillers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen, you can try to relieve your headaches naturally. Acupressure can help you relax and relieve your headache instantly.
What is Acupressure?
Acupressure is a method of Traditional Chinese Medicine massage based upon the same foundational concepts as Acupuncture. However, acupressure involves the use of the fingers, elbows, feet, or other blunt tools, instead of needles to stimulate acupressure points. One benefit of acupressure over acupuncture is that you can easily perform acupressure on yourself to alleviate many minor conditions, such as headaches.
Acupressure stimulation has been shown to have several observable effects:
- Acupressure can increase local blood circulation in the area of stimulation.
- Acupressure can cause the release of endorphins, which are our body’s natural painkillers.
- Acupressure points may coincide with the motor points of muscles, and acupressure on these points can cause the underlying muscle to relax.
We can use acupressure to help manage our stress, relieve our pain, and harmonize the flow of Qi, or energy, in our body.
What Causes Headaches?
Headaches are a common symptom that can arise from many different conditions, such as muscular tension, stress, or poor blood circulation to the head. Chronic headaches should always be investigated by a medical doctor to determine if they indicate a serious health condition, such as stroke or high blood pressure.
In Oriental Medicine, headaches are caused by one of the following conditions: Wind invasion, phlegm accumulation, blood stasis, Qi deficiency, or rising Yang energy to the head. These conditions cause an imbalance in the flow of Qi in our meridians. Depending upon which meridian’s Qi is imbalanced; our headache can occur in different areas of our head.
Gall Bladder and Triple Heater meridian headaches are generally found in the temporal region of our head (side of head), or above the eyes. This type of headache is common in migraines and some tension headaches. Sometimes, this type of headache pain feels like it is inside our eyes.
Urinary Bladder meridian headaches are usually caused by excessive neck tension and cause pain to occur in our occipital region (back of head), or at the eye brows. This type of discomfort is often called a tension headache.
Liver meridian headaches occur at the vertex of our head (peak of head). This type of headache is often sharp in sensation, indicating blood stasis, and may be classified as a cluster headache.
Stomach and Large Intestine meridian headaches occur below our eyes on the front of our face. Sinus issues often cause this type of headache pain. The stomach meridian also crosses the jaw, and is involved in TMJ headaches.
Dull headaches that occur over the entire head are caused by Spleen Qi deficiency. These headaches don’t follow the path of a specific meridian, but are caused by a lack of Qi rising to the head.
How Can Acupressure Help Headaches?
There are several acupressure points that can help us relieve headaches. With the help of acupressure charts, we can easily identify which meridians are imbalanced by observing their pathways. For our purposes, let’s use our prior descriptions of headache locations to make a good guess at which meridian is affected, and then use specific points to balance those meridians to relieve our headache.
Local acupressure points can be helpful in headaches. These points are located in the same area of your headache. Rather than detail all the possible points, these acupressure points can easily be found through palpation. When you apply pressure, the correct points should provide some relief of your headache.
Gall Bladder 20 is an acupressure point that can relieve headaches caused by a variety of conditions. The acupressure point is located at the junction of your neck and the back of your head, behind your mastoid process. Feel the protruding skull bone located behind your ear, and move downward and slightly toward your spine until your finger falls into a deep depression. Gall Bladder 20 can help both occipital and temporal headaches.
Large Intestine 4 is one of the best known acupressure points for headache. It has been shown through research to modulate our limbic system, altering our body’s response to pain. This acupressure point is located on the back of our hand, in the muscle of the web between our thumb and first finger. The exact location can be found close the point where the two carpal bones of the thumb and finger meet. The acupressure point is especially good for headaches in the front of the face, often due to sinus conditions. If you are currently pregnant, please avoid using this acupressure points as it may induce uterine contractions.
Liver 3 can be used for headaches at the vertex of the head, or for headaches that have a sharp painful sensation. To locate the acupressure point, feel the space between your big toe and second toe along their tarsal bones on the top of the foot. Start at the web between your two toes and move backward until you find the most tender location, generally where the two tarsal bones converge. Liver 3 is an anatomically similar location to Large Intestine 4, but on your foot. These acupressure points are often used in conjunction to harmonize the body and relieve stress.
Triple Heater 3 and Gall Bladder 41 can relieve temporal region headaches. The Triple Heater 3 acupressure point is located on the back side of your hand between the carpal bones of your ring and little fingers. Start pressing the space between these two bones from your knuckle towards your wrist until your find the most active spot. To locate the Gall Bladder 41 acupressure point press the area on your foot between your fourth and fifth toes, moving backward until you cross a thick tendon and feel where the two tarsal bones inside your foot meet. Pressing both of these anatomically similar acupressure points on both sides of your body can relieve a temporal headache.
Small Intestine 3 can be used for headaches in the occipital region. The find this acupressure point, check the area on the side of your hand adjacent to your fifth carpal bone (your little finger). Press deeply along this area until you find the most sensitive point, usually just behind your knuckle. You can stimulate this acupressure point on both sides of your body to relax neck tension and stop your headache.
Helpful Tips for Acupressure for Headaches
- Breathe deeply when performing acupressure on yourself.
- Focus your attention on the acupressure point as you apply stimulation to increase the effects.
- Acupressure stimulation should feel strong, but should not be an uncomfortable level of pressure.
- Apply steady pressure to acupressure points on both sides of your body. You can treat the tenderest side first.
- Using acupressure for headaches works best when you use it during the initial stages. More severe headaches will require longer stimulation of acupressure point to relieve the pain.