Pressure Points And The Potential For Migraine Relief

If you suffer from migraines, you are not alone. In the United States, approximately 39 million people experience migraines. Alarmingly, 10% of school-age children struggle with this condition. 

While knowing you are not alone may provide little comfort, there is always ongoing research.

Migraines can be crippling. In addition to intense pain, people who suffer from migraines may also experience nausea, vomiting, or auras. Left untreated, migraines can last 4-72 hours and occur several times a month

Patients often turn to over-the-counter and prescription medications to ease their symptoms. For some, prolonged use of drugs may be ineffective. Others may seek a more natural form of treatment. For these people, migraine pressure points may be worth investigating.  

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What is the science of pressure points and migraines?

Using pressure points originated in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). According to TCM, 12 principal energy meridians run through the human body, connecting the brain and different organ systems. These meridians promote harmony and balance by transporting energy, or Qi. 

When you experience a migraine, it could signal that a meridian is blocked. Blocked meridians can create an imbalance in the body, manifesting as disease, illness, or pain. Traditional Chinese medicine believes you can restore balance and relieve symptoms by applying pressure to locations along the meridians.

These targeted locations are what we know as pressure points. 

While research continues in the field, there is still limited information regarding the role of pressure points. One recent study¹ found moderate evidence that acupressure effectively relieves pain in cancer patients. A study review² showed acupressure provided positive outcomes for patients suffering from pain, insomnia, and other conditions.

However, this study also noted that bias, lack of information, and methodological flaws are rife across acupressure research. 

How to use pressure points to relieve headaches

Pain medication is not always effective for treating migraines. If traditional treatment options do not work for your migraines, your doctor may suggest alternatives, including acupressure. It's an emerging treatment option for people looking for relief from migraine symptoms. 

To achieve results, you must properly identify the pressure points associated with migraine relief and apply pressure, either with your hands or through acupuncture. 

Acupuncture and acupressure aim to achieve the same results through slightly different means:

Acupuncture uses a thin needle to pierce the skin and stimulate the pressure point. A trained professional carries out this procedure in an office, and it should not cause any pain.  

Acupressure is a less invasive approach, using the hands or a mechanical device to apply direct pressure to a specific acupoint. 

Migraine trigger points

If you experience a migraine, you can take immediate action to alleviate symptoms. In some cases, you may see results in as little as 15 to 30 seconds. Because there are several pressure points associated with migraines, you may need to try more than one location before seeing results. 

You've likely stumbled across a few of your body's pressure points if you've previously had a migraine. Once you apply pressure to these areas, you may notice your pain level reduces. Targeted pressure can help you achieve optimal results.

The following is a list of pressure points that have shown effectiveness for individuals who suffer from migraines. 

Ear pressure points

There are several locations on the ear that can ease migraines. 

The apex 

The apex is at the top of the ear, directly in the center. Hold the apex between your fingers and apply pressure for relief. 

The gate 

The gate is just in front of the top of the ear, close to the temple. The best way to apply pressure is to rub between the ear and temple. This may also alleviate face or jaw pain

The daith

The daith is the bony lump in the center of your ear. This area has received a lot of attention regarding migraine relief. Most notably, some people have touted daith piercings as a way to reduce migraines.

However, experts note that daith piercings are likely ineffective as they require exact precision for the piercing placement. Instead, you can achieve relief by applying gentle pressure to the daith or through acupuncture therapy. 

Hand pressure points

While several meridians run throughout the hand, the hand valley point is the area to focus on for migraines. You can find this pressure point by placing your hand palm down. The hand valley point is between the thumb and index finger.

This pressure point is also believed to reduce stress and diminish shoulder, teeth, and neck pain

Foot pressure points

The foot may not be your go-to spot when you get a migraine, but a couple of pressure spots on the foot may help with migraines. These include:

Taichong

This pressure point is also known as Liver 3. The best way to find this pressure point is to spread your toes and place your fingers between your big toe and your next toe. Move your fingers down until you are about a quarter of the way down your foot from the top. 

Zu Lin Qi

The pressure point, also known as Gall Bladder 41, is located on the outer edge of the foot, between the pinky toe and the fourth toe. You can find this pressure point by following the gap between the two toes until you meet the area where the toes and the foot connect. 

Other pressure points

You may find migraine relief using other pressure points located throughout your body. This includes the head, shoulders, and neck. More specifically:

Yintang

Also referred to as the third eye, this pressure point is on the forehead between your eyes. Pressure to this area may alleviate stress, increase energy, and reduce pain and anxiety.

Fengchi

This pressure point is between the two vertical neck muscles, where the neck and skull meet. 

Jianjing

This area is known as the shoulder well. It's between the shoulder joint and the base of the neck. You should avoid this pressure point if you are pregnant or you may be pregnant. 

Urinary bladder 2

To find this pressure point, take your fingers and squeeze the top of your nose between the eyes. You may find relief or prevent a migraine from progressing. 

Does acupressure work for treating migraines?

Acupressure is an alternative form of treatment. For this reason, your doctor may not recommend it as your first line of treatment. However, as interest continues to grow in this field, more research is being done to better understand the mechanisms for this treatment. 

For now, several studies show that acupressure effectively relieves pain compared to a placebo, but the research quality is questionable. There are no known major risks associated with acupressure, making it a viable option for individuals with recurrent migraines.

In addition to treating migraines, acupressure may provide relief for other common ailments, including:

  • Insomnia

  • Pain

  • Menstrual cramps

  • Nausea

  • Motion sickness

Can I do it at home? How?

For safety and sanitary reasons, leave acupuncture to an experienced professional. It is possible to achieve results with acupressure at home. You need to do your research and have realistic expectations. You may not see results from your first attempt or at all. 

You can easily research diagrams showing the specific locations of pressure points for migraine pain alleviation. If you don't understand what to do or need further guidance, an acupressure professional can show you the proper technique. Once you have a better understanding, you may have better success practicing acupressure at home. 

The lowdown 

Millions of Americans suffer from migraines. Far too many people suffer from a diminished quality of life due to migraine symptoms. Whether you want to find a more holistic approach or have not found success with traditional medicine, acupressure may be worth exploring.

If you have questions, talk to your doctor about the benefits and proper use of acupressure for migraines.

Have you considered clinical trials for Migraine?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Migraine, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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Last updated: Sep 2022

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