Nasal congestion, or a stuffy nose, is a common complaint. Some people find that stimulating pressure points in their sinuses helps relieve the issue and make breathing easier.
While many treatments for a stuffy nose, such as pills or nasal sprays, are available, they can cause side effects. This might lead a person to look for alternative or complementary ways to ease their congestion.
In this article, we look at what sinus pressure points are, where they are, and how to stimulate them.
The idea of pressure points comes from acupuncture, a form of traditional Chinese medicine. In acupuncture, practitioners stimulate specific points on the body using fine needles. The aim is to disperse Qi, or vital energy, that has become stagnant.
Acupressure involves stimulating these points through pressure instead of needles — it is noninvasive, and a person can try it at home. Some people report that stimulating sinus pressure points helps alleviate their nasal congestion.
Both acupuncture and acupressure are popular complementary therapies for nasal conditions in the United States. In a 2006 survey, researchers found that among over 300 licensed acupuncturists, 99% had treated clients for chronic sinus and nasal symptoms.
As the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists note, the main pressure points that may help with sinus congestion or pain are in the face.
The following table lists the names, locations, and benefits of each point. Note that the measurement “cun” refers to what acupuncturists also call a person’s “body inch” — the distance between the two joints of the middle finger.
|LI19||halfway between the bottom of the nostril and the lip||nasal congestion, jaw disorders, facial muscle paralysis|
|LI20||0.5 cun to the side of the groove of the nostril||nasal congestion, respiratory disorders, facial swelling|
|ST3||level with the lower border of the nostril and in line with the pupil when the eyes are facing forward||sinus pain, dental pain, facial muscle paralysis|
|EX-HN 3||in the middle of the gap between the eyebrows||sinus problems, frontal headaches|
Another point, GV23, may also help with general headaches. It is located in the center of the forehead, 1 cun behind the hairline.
In acupressure, a person stimulates specific pressure points using self-massage. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) recommend these steps for beginners:
- Relax in a comfortable position, close the eyes, and breathe deeply.
- Choose a pressure point and press it firmly with a finger.
- Move the finger in circles, or up and down, for several minutes.
- Use deep, firm pressure.
- Repeat this as often as needed.
A person can also ask another person to massage the pressure points for them. Practicing the technique consistently may lead to better results.
UCLA recommend using acupressure with the supervision of a doctor. Pressure point stimulation should not hurt. If it does, reduce the pressure or stop the massage.
There is limited research into the effectiveness of acupressure for sinus conditions. Many of the studies in this area focus on traditional acupuncture instead.
For example, in a small 2009 study in the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy, researchers reported that traditional acupuncture significantly improved nasal symptoms, compared with a placebo version of the treatment.
It is important to note that this study did not investigate acupressure and only included 24 participants.
A 2018 review of four studies that had investigated acupressure treatment for respiratory allergies, including those that cause nasal inflammation and stuffiness, found inconclusive results. Due to the small number of trials and the high or unclear risk of bias, the researchers could not assess whether acupressure was effective.
Overall, scientists need to carry out larger, higher-quality studies of acupressure to tell whether it can relieve nasal and sinus congestion and other symptoms.
While acupressure may help relieve nasal symptoms, some sinus conditions require professional care. A person should speak to a doctor if they experience:
- persistent pain in the nose, forehead, or around the eyes
- signs of an infection, such as swelling or a fever
- difficulty breathing through the nose
Anyone having significant difficulty breathing through the nose or the mouth should call 911 or otherwise seek emergency care.
Acupressure involves stimulating specific points on the body with massage. It is different from acupuncture, which involves using needles.
A person can practice acupressure on themselves, and some find that it helps relieve nasal congestion and make breathing easier.
More scientific evidence is needed to confirm that acupressure is an effective treatment for sinus conditions. However, anecdotal reports suggest that it may help manage the symptoms, with little risk of side effects.
Anyone who has persistent pain or symptoms that indicate an infection, such as swelling or a fever, should contact a doctor.