No one likes a headache! Whether it’s a tension headache from sitting at your computer for too long or a monthly migraine you can’t seem to shake, it can cloud your entire day. There are a few ways to take matters into your own hands, without necessarily taking painkillers (or something to try in addition to pain relievers). One tactic is using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) pressure points for headaches. So before you reach for the ibuprofen, try these nine headache pressure points to relieve your headache pain naturally.
How Do Pressure Points Work?
Pressure points are certain areas of the body that may be particularly responsive to pressure, leading to. changes within the body. The concept comes from TCM. Targeting these specific points is traditionally said to help restore the flow of qi, or energy, through the body. Yes, it’s possible that pressing on your eyes relieves headaches, and eyebrow pressure points can too. Why? The specific pressure points lie along meridians or energy channels. By applying firm pressure to these points and then releasing, you can help to unblock stagnant energy and find relief.
So what’s really happening inside your nervous system when you use pressure points for headaches? “Pressure points stimulate nerve fibers that carry signals to and from the brain,” explains Christina Burns, L.Ac, a Doctor of Chinese Medicine and founder of Naturna, an integrative medicine practice in New York City. “If we stimulate anti-inflammatory points and other points that increase circulation and relax muscles, generally headaches will improve.”
If you’re still skeptical, rest assured that Western medicine can at least agree that these pressure points can help relieve tension, improve circulation, and stimulate endorphins.
9 Headache Pressure Points to Try
Here are nine areas to massage when you get a headache, also known as headache pressure points.
1. Third-Eye Pressure Point
This is the sought-after eyebrow pressure point for headache relief. Using your index and point finger, press the space between the eyebrows where the bridge of the nose meets the forehead for one minute. You can either press straight on or massage the area in a circular motion. This pressure point stimulates the pineal gland, which is responsible for producing melatonin. Studies show that melatonin regulation provides significant relief for migraines.
2. Yang Hill Spring Pressure Point
Here’s a lesser-known pressure point that you wouldn’t think would be a headache pressure point, since it’s located on the outer leg, near the knee, but it has potential anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing effects, says Burns. “To target this point, sit on a chair and feel for a slight depression right under your knee, on the outside of your leg. You will feel the depression just in front of a small bone below and to the right of your leg,” she says. Then, you’ll want to approach that point either with firm pressure or a circular motion for a minute or two.
3. Bright Lights Pressure Point
Give this eye massage for headaches a shot. Using both index fingers, find the brow bone just above the inner corners of the eyes. Apply pressure equally on both sides, or stimulate one side at a time for one minute. This pressure point is not only great for relieving general headaches, but also for easing eye strain and providing allergy relief.
4. Kunlun Mountains Pressure Point
This is another headache pressure point that’s near your ankle. “It has been shown in research to reduce system inflammation and reduce pain,” Burns says. To try this one at home, place your fingers on the outside of your lower ankle, outside the Achilles’ tendon and behind the ankle bone—you can hold that with firm pressure or use a circular motion for one to two minutes instead.
5. Instep Yang Pressure Point
You can utilize this pressure point to target both headaches and sciatica pain. It makes sense to use this point after the Kunlun Mountains pressure point since it’s right above it, in the middle of the back of your calf, explains Burns. You can press on this area firmly or rub it in a circular motion for a couple of minutes, but note that you might feel some tenderness with that pressure, she adds.
6. Facial Beauty Pressure Point
To locate these pressure points, guide your index finger to the bottom of your cheekbones alongside each nostril. Press and hold for one minute, or massage the area in circular motions. Along with headaches, the facial beauty pressure point can help relieve toothaches, sinus pain, and congestion.
7. Gates of Consciousness Pressure Point
Interlace your fingers behind your head and stretch the thumbs to press the hollows on the side of your neck at the base of your skull. Use your thumbs to massage the point while you breathe deeply. This pressure point is also great for relieving neck pain and anxiety.
8. Wind Mansion Pressure Point
Another great one for stiff necks! To stimulate this pressure point, place your hand on the back of your head and use the thumb to find the center hollow under the base of the skull. This pressure point is also great for calming nerves. To truly feel the benefits, you can also try holding an ice cube to this pressure point. Doing so is said to release endorphins into the bloodstream and restore balance to the body.
9. Arm Three Miles Pressure Point
Want an additional pressure point to relax tension in your neck? Test out this anti-inflammatory one in your forearm, Burns suggests. “Simply bend your arm and place pressure two finger widths below the fold of your elbow, on the top side of your arm (the side with hair),” she says. If you hold it with firm pressure, it’ll feel mushy and tender—you’re also welcome to use a circular motion for one to two minutes.
Do Pressue Points for Headaches Work?
You may find some headache relief from using pressure points. Of course, they don’t claim to be a cure-all for headaches and migraines. Some other at-home headache remedies could be reducing your screen time, wearing migraine glasses, adequate hydration, and reducing food additives, says Burns. Your doctor can also lead you through an elimination diet, if food seems to be a trigger, or may suggest certain supplements like magnesium glycinate or CoQ10. Other TCM practices, including acupuncture and gua sha, can also provide headache relief, Burns adds.
For more pressure point magic, check out these three pressure points for relieving stress.