How to use acupressure to relieve migraine pain

Finding the pressure points for pain relief when all else fails


When you think you’ve exhausted all options to get some relief from your pesky migraine pain with no luck, it can leave you feeling, well, exhausted. From watching your diet like a hawk to making sure there aren’t any sneaky trigger foods lurking about to trying every herbal remedy in the book to very little success, you may feel that it is high time to throw in the towel. But before you admit defeat, know that there may just be one last hope left yet.

For the layperson, acupressure may seem like an abstract practice unlikely to yield any effective results, but those who are well-versed in the healing Chinese art will vouch that you shouldn’t knock it until you’ve tried it. After all, it’s an ancient pain relief method that people have sworn by for centuries, and besides, there’s no harm in giving it a go, especially if nothing else appears to be working for you.

Before we delve into the specific pain relief techniques of acupressure, let’s first get clued in on the science behind the method so that it becomes a little less obscure (and a little more convincing) to us dubious first-timers.

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What is acupressure?

Acupressure is a relatively harmless and potentially powerful weapon to have in your artillery to combat a migraine attack. Like all living creatures, we have life energy flowing through us in specific pathways known as ‘meridians.’ According to this traditional Chinese method, when the energy flow becomes blocked, it can manifest in all sorts of pain and illness.

In this alternative medicine technique, which is very similar to acupuncture (minus the scary needles), physical pressure is applied to various points around the body – known as acupoints – that are proven to provide relief from a whole host of ailments, ranging from nausea, headaches, and stress to anxiety, constipation, and depression. The areas you target depend entirely upon the issue you want to treat.
Essentially, when pressure is applied to these specific areas, it helps to clear the pathways and return the body to its natural state. And what’s the best thing about acupressure? It is cost-free, natural, and you can perform it on yourself in the comfort of your own home. That’s right, there’s no need to dig deep into your pockets or make that dreaded trip to your doctor, and better still, it doesn’t come with a bunch of side-effects.

How does acupressure help relieve migraine pain?

While a number of medical journals have attested to the benefits of acupressure in relieving migraine pain and its associated side effects, the findings are still somewhat open to question because of technicalities like small sample sizes and a lack of adequate control measures; however, that’s not to say that acupressure should be dismissed completely, as there is a whole bunch of anecdotal evidence that confirms its value. So what exactly is the science behind it?

According to Chinese reflexology, the human body – that is, all of its parts and processes – are intimately intertwined. Based on this logic then, massaging specific areas of the hand, for instance, can provide relief from pain in another, seemingly disconnected part of the body, such as the head. Pressing on the acupoints helps to ease muscle tension, relieve stress, improve blood circulation, and even release natural painkillers called endorphins, all of which stunt the onset of a migraine attack. What’s more, stimulating strategic points can provide relief from accompanying symptoms such as nausea and fatigue.

Which pressure points do I target to relieve a migraine?

 What are the exact acupoints that need to be stimulated in order to gain migraine relief?
Before you attempt to perform the various techniques, make sure you know what you’re doing to reap optimum results. First off, find a comfortable, quiet place to either sit or lay down, close your eyes, and take deep breaths. Now, locate the exact pressure point. Using either your fingers, knuckles, or a soft-tipped object (the rubber end of a pencil is a useful tool), apply consistent, firm but gentle pressure to the area or use a circular motion for around one minute.

LI-4 or Hegu

This pressure point is located in the thick, webbed muscle space between the thumb and index finger. Perform the process on the left hand and then repeat it on the right hand for at least one minute.

LI-20 or Ying Xiang

Located on the outer side of each nostril and above your upper lip, this point can help with sinus pain and migraine headaches.

LU-9 or Tai Yuan

This point is situated on the inner side of the crease along the wrist underneath the thumb.

GB-20 or Feng Chi

This is a hollow space that can be found at the back of the neck, right underneath the base of the skull. Use your index and middle finger to massage the points or interlock your fingers behind your head and use your thumbs to apply pressure to the spots.

GB-21 or Jian Jing

Found halfway between the shoulder joints and the base of the neck, massage the points by pinching the muscles using your thumb and index finger. Be sure to repeat the process on both sides.  

SJ-17 or Yifeng

Stimulate the back of the jawbone, just below the ear in circular motions.

SP-6 or San Yin Jiao

This point can be found one palm width above the inner ankle bone; when massaged in combinations with SJ-17, it can be effective in easing a migraine.

ST-36 or Zu San Li

You should be able to locate this point by feeling for the hollow space between your leg muscles and shin bones, directly underneath the outer side of your kneecaps. This point can also help with nausea that often accompanies a migraine.

Who is acupressure not suitable for?

While for many people, acupressure is a great way to relieve migraine pain with minimal risk, it certainly isn’t for everybody. Particularly, if you’re pregnant, you may want to steer clear of this method as certain points are known to induce labor – the last thing you need are contraction pains on top of your migraine. If you have any contagious skin diseases or infections, or any cuts or wounds to the specified areas, it is best to avoid acupressure until you’ve fully recovered.

Hopefully, having reached the end of this article, you’ve been won over with the benefits of acupressure; however, don’t resort to it as your primary method of treatment. To enjoy maximum relief from your migraine, think of it more as a complementary procedure to be used in combination with other pain management techniques or to enhance the effectiveness of prescription medication. 


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