Headaches can easily ruin your day if they’re left unchecked. But taking medications for headaches increases your risk of suffering from side effects, such as liver damage.To relieve headaches naturally, try alternative medicine like acupressure.
Acupressure is a kind of complementary or alternative medicine that is based on the same fundamental principles as acupuncture. Both practices stimulate meridian lines, or pressure points along energy lines, that run throughout your body.
Acupuncturists use thin needles to stimulate meridian lines, but acupressurists use physical pressure to activate these points.
The adverse effects of pain medication for headaches
It may seem harmless to take medication for headaches, but data suggests that certain kinds of over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication like aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can cause dangerous side effects.
- While rare, there have been cases of people suffering from liver damage after taking acetaminophen several days in a row.
- Aspirin and ibuprofen can also cause stomach bleeding.
- OTC pain medication for headaches may also cause kidney problems.
Studies on the benefits of acupressure: Is it effective?
To date, there aren’t a lot of studies on the benefits of acupressure as a natural treatment for headaches. But worth looking at is the research on the benefits of massage therapy and compression therapy for treating pain and headache symptoms, since these types of therapy involve stimulating myofascial trigger points.
Myofascial trigger points are highly sensitive areas in the skeletal muscle that are linked to tension-type headaches.
Massage therapy for tension headaches
In a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, scientists looked into the potential benefits of massage therapy on individuals with myofascial pain syndrome (MPS).
MPS is a type of skeletal muscle disorder that causes the following symptoms:
- Mood or sleep disturbances
- Muscle pain
- Muscle tenderness
- Pain that intensifies when affected muscles are stretched or strained
- Stiff, weak or inflexible muscles
- Tension headaches
For the study, volunteers were divided into three groups. The first group received massage therapy, the second received a placebo treatment while the third group didn’t receive any treatment.
The participants in the first group received two 45-minute massages weekly for six weeks. At the end of the treatment period, they showed significantly increased levels of pain tolerance at myofascial trigger points.
On the other hand, the volunteers in the second and third groups didn’t show this kind of response, so the authors concluded that massage therapy can help reduce myofascial pain and associated headaches.
Acupressure for migraine
Fatigue, a common side effect of migraine, can impair daily functioning and negatively affect a person’s quality of life. In a 2019 study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, researchers found that self-administered acupressure helps decrease fatigue in people with migraines.
Acupressure points to relieve headaches
Use acupressure to relieve headaches naturally by activating the five pressure points below.
The third eye pressure point is located between your eyebrows.
To stimulate the third eye pressure point, apply constant pressure or gently massage it in a circular motion.
The drilling bamboo pressure points are located on the inside of each eyebrow, where your nose bridge meets the brow bone. Use both index fingers to apply equal pressure on both sides.
You can also stimulate one point at a time by alternating between the two sides.
Gates of consciousness
The gates of consciousness are located in the hollow spaces on either side of your spine, just beneath the base of the skull. Massaging these pressure points can also help address neck pain.
To activate these points, apply firm pressure with the index and middle fingers of both hands.
You can also interlock fingers behind the head, then press the thumbs into the hollow spaces at the base of the skull.
The shoulder well pressure point is located halfway between your shoulder joint and the base of your neck. Activating the shoulder well pressure point can help relieve stiffness or tension in the shoulder and neck muscles. It can also help address tension headaches. (Related: Acupuncture may improve standard treatments for chronic headache.)
Use the index and middle fingers of the opposite hand to apply firm but gentle pressure to this point. Do the same on the opposite side.
The union valley, or hegu, pressure point is located in the loose skin between your thumb and index finger.
Pinch this pressure point between the thumb and index finger of your opposite hand. To activate this pressure point, either hold it or massage it by moving your thumb in small circles. Repeat this process on the opposite hand.
Follow the tips below if you want to use acupressure to relieve headaches:
- Apply firm, consistent pressure when activating acupressure points.
- Learn deep breathing to help promote relaxation.
- Cease treatment if your symptoms worsen or if you experience a new kind of pain.
Don’t rely on harmful OTC medication for headache relief. Use alternative medicine like acupressure to safely get rid of headaches and help you relax after a long and tiring day.
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