Pressure Points for Headaches
What Acupressure Points are Best for Headaches?
There are a variety of pressure points that can be good for both headaches and migraines. To get relief it is important to understand where the points are located, and how points on different body regions require different kinds of stimulation.
For instance, points on the hands such as LI 4 can often respond well with self-acupressure, but points on the feet are more difficult to reach by yourself. Additionally, points on the fingers and ears can be very effective for headache and migraine relief, but they require the use of tools such as electric acupuncture pens, ear seeds, or even acupuncture needles. In this article, I will talk about some common pressure points used for headaches, how people respond differently, and why it is importantl to consider the exact area of the head where pain is felt.
How to Use Pressure Points on the Hands for Headaches
There are over a dozen acupressure points on the hands for headaches with the most famous point being LI 4, otherwise known as Union Valley. This point is located in the middle of the muscle between your thumb and index finger. Feel for the most tender point in this region, and apply firm pressure for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. You should hold it with enough pressure that it causes mild discomfort, this is important for getting pain relief.
After holding the point for 30 seconds - 2 minutes, release it and wait 1 - 2 minutes. Repeat this process of holding the point and then releasing it. Each time you do this it constitutes 1 set.
Repeat this process of applying intermittent pressure for 30 seconds - 2 minutes and then waiting 1 - 2 minutes to observe any changes in pain intensity or location. Do this for a total of 3 - 5 sets. The whole process should take between 5 - 10 minutes.
How People Respond Uniquely to Acupressure
A very important thing to understand is that there are basically 3 types of people based on how they respond to acupressure and even acupuncture. The first type are what we call hyper-responders. These people respond very well, and may even get pain relief after holding pressure on a point for as little as 30 seconds. If you are this kind of person you are very lucky because a little acupressure goes a long way. Typically this kind of person can hold the points for less time, and for fewer sets. Holding the point for 30 seconds for a total of 3 sets may be enough for hyper-responders.
The second kind of person is what we call average responders. This is where most people are at, they respond like a majority of the population and can get good relief with doing pressure for 1 -2 minutes each time they hold a point, for a total number of 3 - 5 sets.
Non-responders are the people that respond the least. Some will only get minimal relief, some may get no relief at all. However, if a non-responder uses stronger pressure, for a longer time, and for a higher number of sets, they too may get relief. Another thing about non-responders, is that they may not respond much to acupressure, but stronger stimulation with an acupuncture needle or with an electric acupuncture pen may be enough to give them benefits. Non-responders usually need stronger stimulation on more points. However, a small percentage of people (about 5%) may not respond at all.
2. Temple Headaches - Headaches that occur on the side of the head are referred to as temple headaches and are very similar to tension headaches. These may be felt near the outer edge of the eyebrow or extend into the area above the ear. They may also be related to tinnitus, ear problems, TMJ, jaw pain, and eye problems. Stress is also a common cause of headaches in this region. LI 4 may help with headaches in this area, but other points on the hands, arms, and feet are more useful for some people.
Where is the Pain Located?
When using pressure points for headaches, it is also very important to consider where the pain is located. Different points are used depending on where the pain is felt. We can divide the head into four main areas where people feel pain.
1. Frontal Headaches - These occur in the front of the head and face or in the forehead and sinuses. They may also occur with pain behind the eyes which is a common stress related pattern. These kinds of headaches may be related to diet, food allergies, hormones, stress, or eye problems. Headaches in this area may develop into migraines if they get severe and occur with nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and pain behind the eyes.
3. Occipital Headaches - These occur in the back of the head and are often related to neck and shoulder problems. People with disorders in the cervical vertebrae such as occur with pinched nerves and herniated discs will often experience occipital headaches. If you have had whiplash or neck surgery it is common to feel these kinds of headaches. When pain moves from the back of the head, across the top, and into they eyes it may develop into a migraine.
4. Vertex Headaches - These occur at the top of the head and are often related to the above three conditions. For instance, a headache may begin in the forehead, eyes, or back of the head, and then spread into the top of the head. Some people may have pain originate in the vertex of their head and then spread to other regions. These kinds of headaches can be due to stress, hormones, and deeper level problems in the brain or organs.
A Deep Dive into the Pressure Points
While a single point may be effective for relieving pain from headaches in hyper-responders, it is usually best to use point combinations. For example, you can start with a point like LI 4 and use it with points on the head and face for getting relief from sinus headaches and congestion. The picture below shows four other points that are often used with LI 4. The point on the cheek is ST 3 and the point on the temples is located about 1/2 inch behind the outer corner of the eye.
Use LI 4 on the hand with these points on the face for temple and sinus headaches. The points are also good for headaches related to colds, flus, and even food allergies.
Acupuncturists will typically use 8 - 12 needles when treating headaches.
While LI 4 is a popular pressure point for headaches. It tends to work best for frontal headaches in the forehead, sinus related headaches, and sinus congestion. It is also good for stress related headaches
The point LI 4 stops pain in general, so you can use it for occipital headaches, neck pain, and many other things. If pain is also present in the back of the head, neck, or shoulders it should be combined with GB 20 and GB 21.
Union Valley / LI 4 is also very good for headaches related to PMS, hormones, and other menstrual disorders.
Since it stops pain throughout the body it can alleviate pain in the head and lower abdomen at the same time. To get the best results it should be paired with points like LV 3, SP 6, and points on the feet.
Many Pressure Points are also Good for PMS and Menstrual Pain
Pressure Points on the Head and Neck for Headaches
GB 20 - Wind Pool
This point gets its name Wind Pool from the way in which cold and wind on the neck and shoulders can cause us to tighten up through the shoulders. The point is located at the base of the head in the small holes about two inches from the midline. These points can easily be massaged by using the thumbs and making small circles in the area.
These points work best for headaches in the back of the head and when neck pain contributes to the problem. Headaches that begin in this region can often spread over the top of the head or into the temples. It is often best to use GB 20 with other pressure points located on the hands and feet. Exercises and movements for the neck and shoulders are often useful for this pattern of headache.
GB 21 - Shoulder Well
GB 21 is located at the top of the shoulders and in the middle of the trapezius muscle. It is one of the most common areas where people hold stress. Pain in this area is often related to stress and tension headaches. Pain at GB 21 may also occur with upper back and neck pain. Pressure points on the hands, arms, feet, and legs can also be good for getting rid of pain at GB 21. Yoga is also beneficial for chronic pain in this area as well as simple movements like shoulder shrugs.
Pressure Points on the Feet for Headaches
Liver 3 ( LV3 ) - Great Rushing
This pressure point is on the feet and is often used with LI 4. When LV 3 and LI 4 are used together they can be useful for headaches, pain throughout the body, PMS, stress, and digestive problems. This is one of the most common point combinations used in acupuncture since it is effective for many disorders.
Liver 3 is best used for temple and vertex headaches, and when pain is behind the eyes. It is located between the big toe and second toe and about 1.5 inches above the web between the toes.
Liver 3 is one of the most well known acupressure points for headaches on the feet; however, it is not so easy to use on yourself. For best results use an electric pen, a pressure probe, or see an acupuncturist. Foot massage can also be very beneficial when headaches are caused by stress.
While LV 3 is a very popular pressure point for headaches, there are several others we should also discuss. The point GB 41 and GB 42 between the 4th and 5th metatarsal bones are also commonly used for tension headaches, migraines, and pain in the temples.
Another point on the feet named ST 42 or 66.05 is also highly effective for pain in the forehead, frontal headaches, and pain behind the eyes. This is a great point to use for sinus congestion and food allergy related headaches. This point combines well with LI 4, and for severe conditions they should be used together.
As previously mentioned with LV 3, the pressure points on the feet are some of the best for getting rid of headaches. However, applying self-massage to these points doesn't usually work very well and it is really best to use an electric pen, see an acupuncturist, or get a foot massage to get the most benefits from these points. I also teach how to use foot pressure points for headaches in my class Pressure Points for Headaches and Migraines. Be sure to fill out the form below to learn more about using pressure points as a home remedy for headaches.
Use LI 4 and ST 42 together for sinus related headaches and when there is pain in the forehead.
Use LI 4 and LV 3 for headaches that occur with PMS or when pain is behind the eyes.
Natural Treatments & Home Remedies for Headaches & Migraines
How to get the best results with pressure points
To get the most benefits when using pressure points it is also useful to combine them with things like movement, exercises for the neck, yoga, diet regulation, breathing techniques, stress management, and life-style practices.
For instance, for people with sinus related headaches and food sensitivities it helps to know which foods play a major role is causing the problems.
When headaches are stress related, breathing techniques and stress management tools are also important to do.
For those with headaches related to neck and shoulder problems, simple exercises for the neck and shoulders will also be necessary to get the best results.
Child's pose can be useful for headaches related to stress, shoulder tension, and neck pain
A holistic & Integrative Method
In a holistic approach to headaches it is important to consider four areas of life.
1. Physical Health - Physical health relates to our bodies and the things we do to them or put in them. If you take a medication for headaches, or use pressure points, they are both physical methods.
2. Psychological and Emotional Health - Headaches related to stress or anxiety may have a psychological or emotional component to them. Our thoughts and feelings play a major role in our health and well-being.
3. Environmental Influences - Some people get headaches when a storm comes in, if there is high humidity outside, or if it is too hot or cold. Bright lights, loud sounds, or noisy offices may make headaches worse in some people. Others may be sensitive to smells, pollens, or other allergies.
4. Social Factors - Have you ever got a headache from listening to a noisy or rude co-worker?
Do arguments with your spouse or partner make your headaches worse? Social factors can play a major role in our health.
A holistic approach can often help us to understand the causes of headaches
Learn More About Pressure points &
Natural Remedies for Headaches
Better health and well-being is only one decision away.
Learn about natural methods for stopping headaches.
Effective pressure point combinations
Find out how to stimulate the points most effectively
Learn movements and stretches to help with pain
Home remedies that will save you doctors office visits
Reduce your pain and feel alive