Acupressure is a healing technique based on traditional Chinese medicine. It offers an alternative or complementary therapy for ailments like migraine. Acupressure works by applying pressure to different parts of the body, called pressure points, to help stimulate blood flow, relieve tension, and alleviate pain and headaches.
With acupressure, specific points on the body are targeted depending on the type of relief you’re seeking. There are several acupressure points for migraine and treating symptoms like headaches, pain, nausea, aura, and gastrointestinal (digestive system) upset.
Members of MyMigraineTeam, the online support community for people with migraine, discuss using acupressure for migraine relief.
“Sometimes, if I massage or acupressure my neck correctly, I can relieve a migraine for a bit,” wrote one member.
Some MyMigraineTeam members recommend acupressure when nothing else works for migraine pain relief. “Try massaging the daith area (a point on the ear), using acupressure,” suggested another member.
Migraine can be a difficult condition to treat. No two people have the same symptoms, and no one therapy works best for everyone. Although there is not a wealth of scientific research on the benefits of acupressure, it offers a migraine therapy option that’s low-cost (if done yourself), natural, and simple. It has few to no side effects.
Consult your health care professional or a migraine specialist before trying acupressure. Your doctor can help determine whether it is a good treatment option for you, and they may offer recommendations and additional resources.
Acupressure is a type of alternative therapy that uses the practice of applying pressure to different points of the body to help relieve various symptoms. It is derived from the traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture, which involves piercing pressure points with a thin needle.
Both acupressure and acupuncture are derived from reflexology, which studies how parts of the body are connected. Through reflexology, you can use massage, acupressure, or acupuncture on one part of the body (like the hand, for example) to relieve pain in the back of the head. These techniques are traditionally thought to help restore balance in the body, improve health, and relieve pain.
In current practice, some people with migraines find relief from acupressure or acupuncture. It is mainly used to treat existing pain but can also be used to prevent migraine attacks, pain, and other symptoms.
To perform acupressure, pressure is applied to a specific point (on the hand, or foot, for example) using a thumb, finger, or knuckle. You can also use the tip of a small firm object like an eraser.
People usually receive acupressure treatment from a licensed professional like a physical therapist or an acupuncturist. You can even perform acupressure on yourself at home, but make sure to ask your health care professional if it’s a safe choice for you.
Acupressure is used as a complement to traditional therapies like medications in the treatment of migraine symptoms. It is not a medical treatment for migraines.
People with migraines will sometimes explore alternative treatments like acupressure when traditional therapies are not effective, have bothersome side effects, or are not accessible due to cost or a loss of insurance coverage.
“When I have no drugs, I fall back on methods used in the 1960s to the 1970s. I use acupressure on my hands between the thumb and the index finger … it has worked many times,” explained one member of MyMigraineTeam.
Although some people find relief from their migraine symptoms with acupressure, there is not much scientific research evidence to support its use.
Several research studies have found the benefits of acupressure on migraine symptoms like nausea and fatigue. One study in Neurological Sciences examined 40 women with migraine without aura. During migraine attacks, they had less intense nausea when using an acupressure device that applies continual pressure to the PC 6 point (a point on the inner side of the wrist), as compared to when they did not use the device.
A different research study examined 98 people with chronic migraine with aura and found that those who used sodium valproate (migraine medication) and acupressure had reduced levels of nausea after eight weeks compared to those taking only the sodium valproate.
One randomized controlled trial cited in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice examined sleep quality and fatigue in people with migraine. Among 76 individuals with migraine without aura, those who applied acupressure on themselves three times a week for four weeks had reduced levels of fatigue.
A study on chronic headaches in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine found that an acupressure regimen was more effective at relieving pain than a muscle relaxant medication. However, further research needs to be conducted to provide evidence for the effectiveness of acupressure in migraine specifically, and especially as compared to other medical therapies.
Pressure points (or acupoints) for migraine and headache relief include those on the face, neck, hands, feet, and ears. These points are targeted for both acupressure and acupuncture therapies.
The Union Valley pressure point, also called L1-4 or Hegu, is located on the base of the hand between the thumb and index finger. It is a small area of fatty tissue between the two fingers. Pressure applied to this area can help relieve headache pain and tension in the head and neck.
To stimulate this point, pinch this area with the thumb and index finger of the opposite hand for 10 seconds. While still pinching the area, make small circles in one direction for 10 seconds and then in the opposite direction for 10 seconds. Next, try this process on your other hand.
The Third Eye (known as GV24.5 or Yin Tang) is the point on the forehead between your eyes. Use your index finger to apply pressure to this point for several minutes. Try doing this several times a week and observe whether it helps relieve headache pain or tension.
The Drilling Bamboo, also called Bright Light or BL2, is located below the Third Eye, under the tips of the eyebrow, and on each side of the indentation where the forehead meets the bridge of the nose. Use your index fingers to press these points and hold for 10 seconds. Then, rest and repeat, and observe how it feels. Acupressure on the Drilling Bamboo points is said to help with headaches from eye strain and sinus pressure.
Gates of Consciousness (GB20 or Feng Chi) are points at the base of the skull just below the hairline on the two parallel neck muscle areas. To stimulate these pressure points, place your index finger, middle finger, or thumb on the points and massage the area in a circular motion for about 10 seconds. Then release and repeat. Acupressure here is said to relieve tension headaches and headaches stemming from neck and back pain.
The Great Surge (called LV 3 or Tai Chong) is located on the feet between the big and second toes. It’s in the nook about 1 to 2 inches back from the toes toward the shin. Applying firm pressure to this area using your thumbs may help relieve headaches and stress.
Another pressure point on the foot is called Above Tears (also GB-41 or Zulinqi) and is located between the fourth and pinky toes and slightly back toward the shin. Pressure on this area may help relieve tension and headaches.
Acupressure is not safe for everyone. If you are pregnant, have heart problems, heart disease, or a device like a pacemaker, you should not use acupressure.
If you experience migraines, seek medical help from a doctor or migraine specialist before trying any alternative or complementary therapies. The National Headache Institute advises avoiding acupressure if your headaches are sudden and severe; are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, or fever; or involve vision disturbances.
MyMigraineTeam is the social network for people living with migraine. On MyMigraineTeam, more than 76,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with migraine.
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