Acupressure is using pressure or massage on the same points that are used in acupuncture, minus the needles. Most people who experience headaches have found areas of tension that feel better with pressure or massage, and may be familiar with some of these points.
In general, use one or 2 fingers with steady pressure or with small circular motions – whichever feels right for the location. Start gently and find a pressure that feels slightly intense but not painful. Acupuncture points are often located on muscle bellies or in depressions, so many of them are easy to find. If your location does not exactly match the anatomical location, go with what feels right for you.
First, check in on your breathing. Stress, anxiety and pain can cause us to take shallow, inefficient breaths. Make sure you are using your diaphragm to take full, deep breaths. Your belly should expand with each inhale without the shoulders moving very much. Put a hand on your belly and one on your upper chest, and make sure the hand on the belly is the one moving more. Sometimes laying on your back can make this movement more obvious.
Acupressure point: KD27
In addition, to relax your breathing and calm anxiety, find this point in the upper chest.
Put two fingers on your sternum or breastbone, and move outwards just underneath the collarbone until you find a tender depression, 1-2 inches.
Acupressure point: LI4
Sometimes acupressure on distal points (away from pain) can be helpful, especially when the area of pain is too tender to massage. The most common distal point for headache pain is found in the hand.
Located between the thumb and first finger along the bone in the hand. Pinch the tender part of the muscle, or massage it against the bone.
Acupressure point: UB2
These are some common areas of headache pain that can be used directly.
Located in a depression on the inside corner of the eyebrow. Lean your head forward and use the weight of your head to apply pressure.
Acupressure point: Tai Yang
Located in the depression just above and behind the outside corner of the eye, what we usually call the temple.
Acupressure point: GB8
Located just above the top of the ear. Feel around for a tender spot.
Acupressure point: GB20
Located behind the mastoid process (the bony projection behind the ear) in the depression where the muscles attach.
Acupressure point: ST7
Many people with headaches are also clenching their jaws or grinding their teeth, sometimes without their knowledge. This can be happening because of headache pain, but it can also contribute to the pain. In addition to Tai Yang and GB8, try these points for jaw pain.
Located just in front of the ear, in the depression under the cheekbone.
Acupressure point: ST6
Located along the jawline, on the muscle belly when the jaw is clenched.
Acupressure point: LI18
One muscle that can refer pain in a variety of headache patterns is the sternocleidomastoid muscle, thankfully known as the SCM.
Start by pinching the muscle between the thumb and first knuckle. Feel for the pulse in front of the muscle and be sure to pinch behind the artery. Move up to the ear and down to the collarbone, stopping and holding the pinch at any sore spot until you feel a release of the muscle.
Any combination of these points can be used to prevent a headache or to address an existing one. Acupuncture is a well-known treatment for all types of headaches including migraines. Using acupressure between acupuncture appointments can reinforce the treatment and keep you out of pain. A Licensed Acupuncturist can also prescribe a Chinese herbal medicine formula specific to your headache pattern.
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