Pressure Points to Relieve Headaches: History, Location, Effectiveness, and more
Did you know that rather than using aspirin, paracetamol, and other pain killers, there is a far more natural way to get rid of your aching headache? Yes, you read that correctly.
You can now tone down your visits to the pharmacy because the cure has been sitting in your hands all along. It’s called acupressure, A.K.A. Pressure acupuncture. Acupressure is an ancient Chinese healing art that uses pressure to naturally relieve pain, muscle strain, and tension.
Applying pressure on specific points on your body, known as acupoints, does a wealth of good by promoting blood circulation. Acupressure helps dilate the constricted blood vessels that prevent the free flow of blood and enhance waste removal and nutrient distribution. This results in relief of muscle pain and/or tension.
This piece of information is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more to learn about in regards to the best pressure points and positive effects of acupuncture. If you intend to gobble it all up, you punctured your way to the right article!
Reflexology for Headaches: The background of using Acupressure and Acupuncture to Treat Headaches
The art of using pressure to relieve pain originated in China and dates way back to a few hundred years before the Common era, where it was first recorded and mentioned. Care to know a fun fact? Back then (around 6000 BCE), before the advent of needles, they used long sharp bones and sharpened stones for acupuncture treatments. Piercing fact, isn’t it?
Over many years, acupuncture gradually developed into one of the standard therapies commonly used in China. This practice was supported and complemented through moxibustion, massage, heat therapy, and herbs. Today, we use acupuncture and other forms of ancient Chinese healing arts to improve our overall health and get rid of those nasty headaches.
You are probably wondering how applying pressure on some point on your body can help relieve pain and make you feel better. As you know, acupressure and acupuncture are not your average healing techniques; they are well-known ancient (over 3000 years old) healing practices that engage pressure to foster healing.
How Does Reflexology Work?
Using reflexology, a type of massage that requires the application of different amounts of pressure to the ears, feet, and head, you can engage the principle of acupressure and acupuncture to influence your body’s vital energy. But, the difference between reflexology and acupuncture is that the pressure points do not always coincide.
Imagine this: you are back home after a long, tiring day. Your neck hurts as well as your back, and let’s not even talk about your eyes. You’re super stressed out and can feel the tension from your shoulders to your neck, which lead up to your head (the seat of the banging headache). And all you want is to get rid of all that stress and pain. Can you relate?
There are 12 major meridians or channels in your body where acupoints or acupressures lie. According to ancient beliefs, through these regions, vital energy (qi or ch’i, pronounced chee) flows. These meridians connect particular or networks of organs together, which turns your body into an organized system of communication. These meridians start at your fingertips, to your brain, and connect to the organ related to the respective meridians.
Although there is not much science backing the use of reflexology for headaches and the present studies still need to be expanded on, there are a few studies that have researched the use of massage therapy on pressure points to treat headaches.
What these massage therapies – reflexology and the rest – do is:
- release the energy in these meridians
- channel the energy to the target areas (organs)
- restore the balance
- cure the ailment, and
- help you feel awesome!
Now you know how these ancient Chinese healing arts work to get rid of your headache. I’m sure you’re excited to try them out. Here’s how.
How to Use: Pressure Points to Relieve Headaches
Like you read earlier, there are several pressure points around your body. These points are believed to cure and relieve pain and illness. Here are a few headache relief pressure points, their locations, and how they can help:
Drilling Bamboo (B2 or Bright Light)
Take a look at the bridge of your nose and move up to the spot where the bridge of your nose meets your eyebrow ridge. Those two indentations on either side of that spot are the drilling bamboo points.
Here’s how you can use them to treat headaches:
- Using your index fingers, firmly apply pressure to the two points at the same time
- Hold your position for 10 seconds
- Release the pressure and repeat the process
Touching drilling bamboo points can relieve headaches that result from eye strain as well as sinus pressure.
Third Eye (GV24.5 or Ying Tang)
The third eye point is very close to the drilling bamboo points. It lies between your two eyebrows, just at the point where your forehead meets the bridge of your nose. Can you tell how it got its name now?
To relieve your headaches using the third eye point; here’s all you need to do:
- Using your index finger, apply firm pressure to the third eye for 60 seconds
With this, you can expect to relieve the common causes of headaches, sinus pressure, and eye strain.
Gates of Consciousness (GB 20 or Feng Chi)
These pressure points lie in the parallel hollow areas between your two vertical neck muscles at the base of your skull. Have you found them? If you’d like to test these pressure points out:
- Place your index and middle fingers on each hand on the gates of consciousness pressure points
- Press firmly upward on both sides at the same time for 10 seconds.
- Release the pressure and repeat the process.
Shoulder Well (GB 21 or Jian Jing)
This pressure point is located at the edge of your shoulders, halfway between the base of your neck and your shoulder point. To make use of your shoulder well pressure points:
- Apply firm, circular pressure to this pressure point with the thumb of one hand
- Switch shoulders and repeat the process
For those days when you experience stiffness in your neck and shoulders, these pressure points can help sort that out. A firm touch to your shoulder wells will help relieve the stiffness in your shoulders and neck.
Union Valley (LI4 or Hegu)
Where are the union valley points? They lie on the web between your index finger and thumb. The name of these points is a perfect description.
Can you see the union valley point looks like a valley that joins (or unites) your thumb to your index finger? To relieve headaches through this pressure point on your hand:
- Use the index finger and thumb of your opposite hand to firmly pinch your union valley point for 10 seconds. Make sure what you feel during this headache massage is pressure, not pain.
- For the next step, use your thumb to make small circles on this pressure point in one direction and then switch directions, for 10 seconds each.
- Repeat this process on your opposite hand.
How Effective are Pressure Points in Relieving Headaches?
According to ardent supporters of alternative medicine, you can dispel several forms and types of headaches once you find the right pressure points. You’ve already met the two most common pressure points to relieve headaches – The gates of consciousness.
Sources claim that not only can these pressure points release tension in the head and cure headaches, but they may also help with a variety of other conditions like hypertension, fibromyalgia, tinnitus, and even judgmental attitude. Amidst studies and shreds of evidence, acupressure may not work for everyone. One study suggests that only 55% of people with tension headaches feel relieved from using acupressure; and even for the right person, the effectiveness of acupressure may be as high as 80%.
As a result, scientists still need to conduct more research on the effectiveness of acupressure and other individual reports that claim acupressure relieves pain, chronic disease symptoms, and more.
How to Use: Head Acupuncture Points to Relieve Headaches
Acupuncture is an alternative to using pressure from your fingers to relieve headaches. Here, you use needles to create pressure and relieve headaches.
Here are a few head and body puncture points to relieve headaches in particular regions of the head:
Ying Tang (Third Eye)- Just above the bridge of your nose and midway between your eyebrows.
DU 23- In the midline of the head, about an inch behind the front hairline.
UB 2- The point at the inside of your eyebrows.
GB 14- One inch above the center of your eyebrow on your forehead.
Top of the Head
DU 20- Top center of your head.
DU 21- About 1.5 inches above the DU 20 pressure point at the top of your head.
KD 1- This is a pressure point on your feet for a headache that lies on the middle of the soles of your feet, just one-third of the way down from the top of your feet.
Liver 2- The top of the web of the skin between your first and second toe.
Liver 3- Just two finger widths behind the Liver 2 acupressure point.
Occipital/Back of the Head
Here are acupressure points to cure those headaches that thrive at the back of your head:
GB 20- Just under the base of the skull at the back of your neck, midway between your ears and spine.
UB 10- Closer to the spine, but along the same line as the GB 20 pressure point.
UB 60- Another pressure point on feet for headache found in the depression between the Achilles tendon and the outside ankle bone.
UB 62- In the depression just below the outside ankle bone.
Temples/Side of the Head
Here’s a quick solution for those headaches that won’t let your temples stay serene and calm – use these acupuncture points:
GB 8- 1.5 inches inside the hairline, directly above the top of the ear.
Tai Yang- In the tender part of the temples, an inch behind the lower border of your eyebrows.
GB 40- Inside and below the outer ankle bone.
Thinking about acupuncture for migraine? Here’s a journal article you might be interested in.
How Effective are Acupuncture Methods in Relieving Headaches?
Where a person does not respond well to prescribed drugs for headache, acupuncture may be a beneficial alternative. According to research, acupuncture can help reduce the occurrence of headaches and migraines at least in the short term.
Some research was conducted to determine how effective acupuncture is for relieving headaches. Some of this research was also aimed at discovering if acupuncture can help reduce the occurrence of headaches and migraines. Reviews and studies compared how people suffering from headaches fared when using acupuncture compared to routine care (control groups), “fake” acupuncture (placing the needles in wrong places, or not into the skin), and a couple of other treatments, like exercise, physiotherapy, massage, and preventive drugs.
So, what’s the result of all this research?
Studies showed that 3 months after the start of the puncture point treatment, people who suffered frequent migraines or headaches experienced a significant reduction in the occurrence of the headaches than those who received treatment with preventive drugs, “fake” acupuncture, or routine care. Generally, people who received acupuncture treatment were less likely to drop out of the studies and reported fewer side effects than those just receiving drugs.
Recent reviews that studied chronic pain also support using acupuncture to treat headaches and other forms of pain, like osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal pains. Some older research states that acupuncture shows only short-term benefits (6 months), while other research shows the possibility for a more sustained pain relief (over at least a year).
So, there’s a bit of confusion on how long the relief can last for and there’s a need for more extensive research. However, going for regular acupuncture treatments appears to be a great way to curb migraines and chronic headaches. Just like acupressure, more and long-term research needs to be conducted to determine if acupuncture provides long-term benefits. While we wait for the verdict from the scientific jury, the good news is that emerging evidence shows promising results for the health benefits of acupuncture!
Our Final Thoughts
Headaches are a pain in the butt… Oops, we meant head. They can hinder you from daily life and activities. Some of which are working, thinking, and hanging out with friends. Now you have a more accessible and natural way to get headaches out of the way of your joy and productivity.Remember, acupressure is an area of medicine that is still under research, So, keep yourself informed about and be sure to consult with a medical professional to make sure it is right for you. Lastly, have fun pressing headaches out of your way whenever they make an appearance.
University of Port-Harcourt Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (M.B.B.S.), Medicine 2019-2025 (expected)