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Using Acupressure to Relieve Headaches

written by: Jennifer Claerr • edited by: Lisa Lambson • updated: 7/25/2011

Acupressure is a powerful tool for headache relief. This non-invasive version of acupuncture is helpful for both migraine and tension headaches. By stimulating specific acupressure points, you can help the body to relax, thus reducing or eliminating headache pain.

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    Facts about Acupressure for Headache Relief

    Acupressure is one of the best remedies for headaches. It's safe, effective and easy to learn. Acupressure uses the same meridians and points as acupuncture. By placing firm finger pressure on these points, you can relieve tension and blockages of chi (life energy) that have accumulated in that region. There are many acupressure points on the head that can provide quick, drug-free headache relief. However, since stimulating one point on a meridian affects other points on that same meridian, other points that are remote from the head may also be effective. You can practice acupressure on yourself or have another person stimulate these points for you.

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    Difference Between Tension and Migraine Headaches

    Headaches have many different causes. The most common types of headaches are tension headaches and migraines. Although the exact cause of tension headaches is unknown, they seem to be triggered by tension in the upper back, neck and shoulders. Migraine headaches are caused by enlargement of blood vessels such as the temporal artery.

    For obvious reasons, acupressure is most effective against tension headaches. However, acupressure can also be used as part of a treatment program for migraine headaches. Migraine headaches stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, causing a "fight or flight" response. Massage such as acupressure stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps ease the body into relaxation and rest. This can help to restore blood flow to the brain and lessen the severity of a migraine attack.

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    Acupressure Points for Relief of Headaches

    The best point to start applying acupressure for a headache is gall bladder (GB) 20. These acupressure points are located at the base of the back of the skull, just where it meets the neck vertebrae. There is one point on each side of the back of your neck. Place gentle pressure with your fingers or thumbs on this point. This area is typically very sensitive to pressure and is hard to miss. Press upward into the occipital bone and gradually increase the pressure.

    Move your fingers downward to acupressure point GB 21, which is located on the trapezius muscle where the neck meets the shoulder. Place firm but gentle pressure here for several seconds.

    Move on to the acupressure point large intestine (LI) 4, which is located on the muscle between the thumb and forefinger. These points are good for both migraines and tension headache relief.

    Placing gentle pressure on governing vessel (GV) 20, in the small hollow on the top of the head, is an excellent remedy for migraines. Triple warmer (TW) 5, on the forearm between the radius and the ulna, can help to relieve both headache and facial pain associated with migraines.

    If you familiarize yourself with these acupressure points, you'll be able to massage away your headaches wherever you happen to be. Be sure to consult a good acupressure reference for more detailed instructions on how to find acupressure points.

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    Disclaimer

    Please read this disclaimer regarding the information you have just read.

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    Sources

    Iona Marsaa Teeguarden, "Acupressure Way of Health: Jin Shin Do." Japan Publications, 1978

    "Headache," http://www.medicinenet.com/headache/article.htm

    "Moderate pressure massage elicits a parasympathetic nervous system response," International Journal of Neuroscience. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19283590?dopt=Abstract



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