Nasal congestion is a common symptom of infections and allergies. Although congestion is not a serious medical condition, it can lead to nasal discharge, facial pain, and headaches.

Over-the-counter decongestants are effective treatments for nasal congestion. However, people who experience frequent congestion may want to try other treatment options. Sinus massage is a simple and quick method that people can use to relieve nasal congestion at home.

This article describes how nasal congestion occurs and provides step-by-step instructions on how to alleviate nasal congestion using sinus massage.

a woman getting massaged on the forehead as part of a sinus massageShare on Pinterest
A sinus massage may help relieve symptoms, including facial pressure and pain.

The sinuses are a network of small, hollow cavities inside the skull. They sit behind the cheekbones and forehead, opening into the nasal cavity.

Tissues inside the sinuses produce mucus, which ordinarily drains into the nose. Sometimes, these tissues become inflamed and swell with fluid. Inflamed sinuses cannot drain properly, allowing mucus and other fluids to build up in the nose. This buildup results in nasal congestion.

Sinus inflammation that causes nasal congestion can occur as a result of a viral respiratory infection or exposure to allergens or irritants.

The medical term for chronic nasal congestion is sinusitis. It is a common condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018, 28.9 million adults in the United States received a diagnosis of sinusitis.

Sinus massage uses gentle pressure and heat from the fingers to release mucus buildup in the sinuses. It may help relieve symptoms of sinus congestion. Such symptoms may include:

People can self-administer sinus massage quickly and easily from the comfort of their own home.

The nasal passageway contains four pairs of sinuses, which get their names from the facial bones that contain them. When performing sinus massage, a person may focus on the congested sinuses alone, or they may massage all four pairs of sinuses.

Below are some instructions for massaging the different sinuses.

Frontal sinus massage

The frontal sinuses sit in the center of the forehead, extending from the brow bone to the top of the nose.

Inflammation of the frontal sinuses can lead to intense pressure or pain behind the eyes or in the forehead.

To perform frontal sinus massage, a person should follow the steps below:

  1. Warm the hands by rubbing them together or running them under warm water.
  2. Place the index and middle fingers of both hands on the center of the brow bone.
  3. Gently massage in a circular motion, moving out toward the temples.
  4. Return to the center of the forehead and continue massaging out toward the temples.

People should perform the massage for about 30 seconds.

Maxillary sinus massage

The maxillary sinuses are pyramid shaped cavities that sit behind the cheeks on either side of the nose. They extend from the bottom of the eyes to the roof of the mouth.

Inflammation of the maxillary sinuses can lead to facial pain and postnasal drainage.

A person can perform maxillary sinus massage by following the steps below:

  1. Place the index and middle fingers either side of the nose, in the area just below the cheekbones and above the upper jaw.
  2. Gently massage the area using a circular motion.

A person should perform the massage for about 30 seconds.

Sphenoid and ethmoid sinus massage

The sphenoid sinuses are in the center of the skull, behind the nose and between the eyes. The ethmoid sinuses are in front of the sphenoid sinuses. They sit between the bridge of the nose and the inner edge of the eye sockets.

Inflammation of the sphenoid and ethmoid sinuses can lead to headaches, facial pain, and postnasal drainage.

These steps explain how to massage the sphenoid and ethmoid sinuses effectively:

  1. Place the thumb and index finger on the bridge of the nose.
  2. Find the space between the nose and the inner corners of the eyes, and apply moderate pressure to the area for about 15 seconds.
  3. Then, continue to apply pressure while slowly stroking the thumb and index finger down along the sides of the nose.

A person should repeat the slow, downward strokes for about 30 seconds.

People can relieve sinus pain by combining sinus massage with the following treatments:

  • Decongestants: These medications help relieve congestion and sinus pain by reducing blood flow and swelling in the sinus membranes. Decongestants are available over the counter (OTC).
  • Nasal sprays: Nasal sprays contain saline to help loosen and thin mucus that has become trapped inside the nose. Some sprays also contain a corticosteroid, which reduces inflammation in the sinuses. Nasal sprays are available OTC.
  • Nasal irrigation: This type of personal hygiene practice involves using a nasal irrigation device (NID) or “neti pot” to flush saline solution through the nose. While most NIDs are generally safe, people should use them with caution. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the improper use of NIDs can increase the risk of infection.
  • Humidifiers: A humidifier is a device that adds moisture to the air. Increasing indoor humidity may improve nasal drainage.
  • Steam inhalation: Steam provides warmth and moisture that can open the nasal passageways and relieve painful sinus pressure. A person can inhale steam while having a hot shower.

Nasal congestion is a common symptom of respiratory infections and allergies. It occurs when the tissues lining the sinuses become inflamed, trapping mucus and other fluids in the nasal passageways.

Congestion can lead to a stuffy nose, facial pain, and headaches. Sinus massages may help relieve nasal congestion and its symptoms.