The paranasal sinuses are small air-filled spaces in your skull. They help filter and humidify the air you breathe and lighten the weight of the skull. The paranasal sinuses also help produce the sound of your voice and support your face and eyes.
Whenever you are sick, the sinuses are clogged with mucus. This blockage causes congestion and can lead to intense pressure and headaches. Although there are nasal sprays and medications available to treat symptoms, some simple at-home massage techniques can provide relief.
Types of sinuses
Before learning sinus massage techniques, it is important to have a general understanding of the different types of sinus cavities in your skull. The sinuses are named after the bones in which they are found.
- Ethmoid sinuses: Located between your eyes, the ethmoid sinuses are a common source of infection. A headache due to ethmoid sinus infection is usually felt behind the nose.
- maxillary sinuses: Located below your eyes in your cheekbones, this cavity is the largest and most prone to infection. Maxillary sinus pain can be felt spreading to your teeth.
- Sphenoid sinuses: Located behind your eyes towards the back of the head, there are two sphenoid sinuses which make up the middle part of the base of the skull. Deep pain is usually felt.
- Frontal sinuses: Located above your eyes in the lower part of your forehead, there are two triangular-shaped sinuses that flow down the middle of your nose. The pain or pressure is usually felt on the face and head.
Sinus draining massage
There are two types of approaches to take when performing a sinus massage. For more general relief, the massage focuses on pressure points on the forehead and face to provide relief. The second type of massage is directed towards specific types of sinus areas (frontal, ethmoidal, maxillary and sphenoidal).
The idea is to massage pressure points to help drain mucus from the sinuses. In turn, this will relieve pressure and congestion.
General Sinus Facial Massage
To start, place your four fingers on each of your temples and gently massage in a circular motion. If you feel a tight spot, hold and breathe for several seconds. You can continue along certain parts of your forehead and hairline.
Next, take your thumb and index finger and place them on your eyebrow closest to your nose while pinching them gently. Hold this position for several seconds. Slowly work through the eyebrow towards your ear.
Next, take four fingers and place them inside your cheekbone near the bottom of your nose. Gently press down and slide your fingers outward. Repeat several times.
When you finish outward from your ear, gently massage the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the lower jaw to the skull. If you can’t find it, open your mouth and you should be able to smell it coming out.
Finally, form a V with your fingers, separating your middle and index fingers from your ring and pinky fingers. Bring your fingers to your ear and slowly massage this area in an upward and downward motion.
Frontal sinus massage
Place your index and middle fingers above your eyebrows and rub gently in a circular motion. Slowly move your fingers diagonally down the middle of your forehead before slowly moving towards the temples. This should take about 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat one or two more times.
Maxillary sinus massage
Using your index and middle fingers, apply pressure near your nose between your cheekbones and your jawline. Move your fingers in a circular motion towards your ears. You can use your thumbs instead of your fingers for a deeper massage. This should take 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat one or two more times.
Ethmoid sinus massage
Place your index fingers on either side of your nose bridge. Use small circles to massage this area moving up the nose. Slowly move up to the lower part of the nose. Repeat once or twice. You can also apply pressure to the area where your nasal bone meets your forehead bone. Gently press down with your fingers and hold for 10-15 seconds.
Sphenoid sinus massage
Using your index fingers, begin to gently massage the side of your head near your ears in an up and down motion. Slowly work your way down to the earlobes. Repeat once or twice.
Pressure points to drain the sinuses
In addition to manual massage, you can also access sinus pressure points using a technique called acupressure. This ancient healing technique originated in China and uses the same principles as acupuncture, except you use your fingers to trigger pressure points instead of needles.
Here are some pressure points to trigger to help relieve sinus pain and congestion. Simply press and gently massage these areas for several minutes or until you feel relief.
- BL2 acupressure point: Located where your eyebrow meets your nose, this pressure point can help relieve frontal headaches.
- GB20 acupressure point: Located at the back of your head, where the skull meets the neck muscles, this pressure point can relieve midline headaches.
- L3 acupressure point: Located on your foot between the tendons of your big toe and second toe, this pressure point can help relieve headaches.
- Acupressure point LI4: Located on your hand between the thumb and index finger, this pressure point can help relieve sinus congestion.
- Acupressure point LI 20: Located at the base of your nose, this pressure point can help relieve sinus pressure.
- Acupressure point SI18: Located where your cheekbones meet your nose, this pressure point can relieve sinus congestion.
Although home remedies can relieve mild sinus infections and sinus-related congestion, you should see an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) for more chronic symptoms. To learn more about what these specialists do, visit our ENT blog.