Anyone who has experienced a migraine knows that the pain in your head can be unbearable. Using your body's own pressure points can be an easy and no-cost way to help you relieve the pain, in addition to your preventive treatments and medications.
What Is Acupressure?
Acupressure, the practice of stimulating certain points on the body to relieve pain, dates back to ancient Chinese medicine. Unlike its close cousin acupuncture, acupressure merely involves the use of fingers, and can be mastered at-home by anyone! Proven to reduce stress, improve sleep, relieve migraines, and more, it is no surprise that many migraine sufferers turn to acupressure for migraine relief.
The Hand Pressure Point
Possibly the most effective point on the body for migraine relief is Union in the Valley, or LI4 (Hegu). The region is located between the thumb and first (pointer) finger, and usually feels a bit fleshy.
Once the spot is found, massage it with gentle to moderate pressure for roughly 5 minutes. After massaging for a few minutes, you will begin to experience pain relief. Since this specific pressure point is used for migraine or headache pain, massaging Union in the Valley multiple times throughout a migraine attack is essential, or the pain will come back.
While LI4 serves as a great mechanism for migraine relief, this region may also positively impact different parts of the body and mind. LI4 can be used for pain relief in the head, neck, and face region. Additionally, many women have noted significant period pain relief after massaging this point of the body. Union in the Valley can also be used to significantly reduce stress and anxiety, and also improve bowel movement.
It is also important to note to avoid clenching your hands, which could cause even more pain. Instead, lessen the pressure when pain seems to increase.
Foot Pressure Points
Located between the big toe and second toe, this pressure point is known for relieving temporal headaches, or headaches that target the temples. LV2 can be practiced on either foot, depending on the temporal region (side of the head) where the headache is targeting. If you are experiencing pain on the right side of your head, massage the toes on your left foot, and vice versa.
Start by pressing your thumb to the area and rub side-to-side. Start at the top of the big toe and move in a circular motion to the top of the second toe. Repeat this motion until pain begins to subside. It is important to note that in the middle of a migraine attack, this point is extremely sensitive in a painful way. As you continue this motion in your daily life, the area will become less sensitive over time, the desired sensation of this specific area.. You can even perform this motion when you’re not experiencing a headache, this will lead to long-term pain alleviation.
LV3 (Tai Chong)
This point is located on the top of the foot, at the intersection of the big toe and second toe bones. Use your thumb to feel around the area until you reach the webbing between the toes. Once the area has been found, press your thumb with moderate pressure for one minute.
Similar to LV2, if your pain is located on the right side of your head, perform acupressure on your left foot. If your entire head has been targeted, press down on both feet at the same time.
Additionally, if you are pregnant, do not perform LV3 and LI4 acupressure, as they have been proven to induce labor. Instead, perform LV2 and GB-41
GB-41 (Zu Ling Qi)
GB-41 is located on the top of the foot, between the pinky toe and the second last toe. Rub your thumb between the two toes until you find the intersection point. This pressure point is located at the depression just before the intersection. It will be difficult to find, but as long as the practice is done in the general area, it will be successful.
Once you believe the point has been found, using your thumb, apply moderate pressure for 30-60 seconds. Once again, make sure you are applying pressure to the foot that is opposite to your head pain, and both feet if you're experiencing an overall headache.
This specific pressure point is not only useful to migraine relief, but also significantly helps reduce period pain.
Neck Pressure Points
GB20 (Gates of Consciousness)
Located below the skull and just before the two major vertical neck muscles, this pressure point is often noted as the best way to reduce migraine pain, as well as neck and shoulder pain.
Clasping both hands behind the head, take your thumbs and place them below the skull. Feel around until you find two hollow spots on either side of the head, just before the neck muscles. Once your thumbs discover the depressions, you’ve found your Gates of Consciousness.
Apply firm pressure for 4-5 seconds, and follow with 1-2 minutes of massages with either the thumbs or index fingers. This motion can be performed for 3 minutes maximum.
GB21 (Jian Jing)
The GB21 pressure point, or shoulder well, is noted to reduce headache pain, neck stiffness, and shoulder tension. This point sits halfway between the base of the neck and the shoulder joint.
First, using your index finger and thumb, pinch the middle point of your shoulder. Then, using the index finger, apply direct and firm pressure for 4-5 seconds to stimulate the area. Then, continue with massaging the area of 1-2 minutes.
Similar to LV3 and LI4 pressure points, GB21 is known to induce labor, and should never be used during pregnancy.
GV16 (Wind Mansion)
Located below the skull and just above the neck, this spot may be difficult to find at first. Take your index finger and feel the area until you find a slight depression, roughly at the center point between the skull and neck.
Due to the extreme sensitivity of this area, applying pressure with the fingers is not ideal. Instead, place your index finger at the pressure point, and tilt your head back. This way, your head will provide the appropriate weight needed to stimulate the area. Perform stimulation for 1-2 minutes
Facial Pressure Points
B2 (Drilling Bamboo)
Often regarded as Bright Lights Point, it's no surprise that this pressure point can significantly relieve migraines. Located at the inner corners of both eyes, above the eyelid and on the bone surrounding your eyes.
Using both index fingers, apply pressure for one minute. While recommended that both pressure points be stimulated simultaneously, it is possible to stimulate them individually. But, it is essential to complete both sides and hold pressure for one minute.
GV24.5 (Third Eye)
Located between the eyebrows and the middle of the forehead, the Third Eye. It is important for the flow of one’s body, to keep this pressure point active. Stimulation, especially during a migraine attack, may significantly alleviate pain.
Use the index finger and apply pressure for one minute. Alternatively, you may also perform a circular motion, while keeping pressure consistent.
Acupressure and learning which pressure points work best for you may be a tedious process, but once you begin to implement the practice into your daily life, not only will your migraines thank you, but your whole body may feel less pain. The key is to keep these pressure points stimulated. According to traditional acupuncture and acupressure practices, Qi or Chi, circulates throughout the natural pathways present in the body, called meridians. When Qi becomes blocked, specifically at the major pressure points, illness and pain appear in the body. By keeping pressure points stimulated through massage or pressure, you are maintaining the flow of Qi throughout your body, eliminating migraine pain and more.