An acupuncturist and pain expert shares the 2 pressure points she uses to ‘relieve headaches fast’

Tension headaches are no joke. They usually feel like a tight band around the head and can be the result of muscle contractions in the head and neck, stress, or even poor posture.

Many people take pain relievers such as acetaminophen and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to relieve symptoms. But excessive use of it without medical guidance can lead to harmful side effects.

As an acupuncturist with 10 years of clinical experience, I have had thousands of patients come to me for help with tension headaches.

In an acupuncture treatment, pressure is applied to certain points of the body to relax the muscles and improve blood flow. Here are some methods I use to relieve headaches fast – without the needles!

1. Pressing on the base of your skull and neck

These acupuncture points are located on the bony base of the skull, on the left and right sides. Applying pressure to it is helpful not only for headache relief, but also for neck pain and sinus congestion.

The two points are located on the bony base of the skull. Each point is located about one finger’s width from the midline of the head, on the left and right sides.

Photo: Eileen Li

Travel directions:

  1. Clasp your hands behind your head with your thumbs pointing down.
  2. Position your hands so that each thumb presses into the ditch at the base of the skill (one on the left, one on the right).
  3. Apply light to moderate pressure and rub in small circles. You may feel some tenderness or tension in this area, which is normal.
  4. Do this until you start to feel some relief.

Position your hands so that your thumbs press into the depression at the base of the skull (one thumb on the left and the other on the right).

Photo: Eileen Li

2. Press the space between thumb and index finger

I call this the “painkiller button” because it relieves headaches and gives a “it feels so good” feeling at the same time. (If you’re pregnant, I recommend avoiding this method, as it can be overstimulating.)

This pressure point can help relieve general body aches, headaches, facial pain, neck pain and abdominal pain.

Photo: Eileen Li

Travel directions:

  1. Turn your palm down and find the fleshy web space between the thumb and index finger.
  2. Press this point with the thumb of your other hand.
  3. As you press, gently push to the bone of the index finger, or squeeze it down as if you were taking a card from a slot.
  4. Hold with mild to moderate pressure for 60 seconds and adjust the pressure intensity as needed.
  5. Repeat two or three times on each hand.

Press in the space between thumb and index finger.

Photo: Eileen Li

Other ways to relieve tension headaches

Walking outside at a brisk pace for 30 minutes can help relieve stress and provide fresh oxygen, helping to treat tension headaches.

If you find it difficult to leave your desk at all, schedule a short break every 30 to 60 minutes. Get up and walk around or stretch for five to 10 minutes to stimulate more blood flow to the body and brain.

Drinking water can also help reduce headaches and body aches. Fatigue is often caused by a lack of hydration and studies have shown that people who suffer from headaches and migraines often do not drink enough water. I like my water warm with a slice of ginger or lemon.

Eileen Li is a qualified acupuncturist, doctor of Chinese medicine and physiotherapist. She received her clinical doctorate from Simmons University. From there, she worked in the field of physical rehabilitation, specializing in chronic pain research, pediatrics and geriatrics, inpatient psychiatry, and schools. Her research on chronic pain has been published in several journal publications. Continue to follow Eileen TikTok and Instagram.

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