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Massage Techniques to Relieve Headaches and Sinus Congestion

Massage Techniques to Relieve Headaches and Sinus Congestion

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Massage works very well on head and neck problems. The conditions we explore in this guide—headaches and sinus problems—can overlap or contribute to each other, so often it’s beneficial to address both during a massage, especially if a headache is your partner’s primary discomfort.


There are numerous kinds of headaches, but one thing they all have in common is tension. Even if a headache has begun as a result of sinus congestion or barometric pressure affecting the sinuses, caffeine withdrawal, TMJ, allergies, or migraine circulatory problems, once the pain begins, almost all headache sufferers “guard” the area by tensing the face, scalp, neck, and shoulder muscles.

The place to begin is with a relaxing head, face, neck, and shoulder massage.

After you’ve completed general relaxing massage of the area:

  1. Find the slight indentation just in front of her ear, where the top of the ear joins the face. Gently hold your index fingers in this small indentation on both sides of the face for about 30 seconds.
  2. Apply firm slow circles at the temples for another 30 seconds.
  3. Perform firm, slow circular friction across the occipital ridge (base of the skull) and up and down each side of the spine on the neck.
  4. Pressure on this point can relieve some headaches.

    Pressure on this point can relieve some headaches.

  5. Every now and then, simply stop, with your hands resting on the forehead in a contact hold, and coordinate your breath with hers. This technique, while simple, is comforting and, in the case of a bad headache, can be more tolerable than a lot of movement.

Although we have indicated the amount of time to spend on an area or how many particular strokes, that is a very general guideline to get you started. If your partner has a lot of tension in an area, apply the stroke for a longer period of time or for more repetitions. The very essence of massage is that you do not follow a set pattern for a specific period of time, but rather allow your partners body to “speak” to you about what is needed during the particular massage session.

Sinus Congestion

Acupressure is extremely effective in relieving sinus congestion, after you have warmed up the area with massage. The amount of force you exert in pressure-point massage is small, but calm and patient.

  1. Start by placing the pads of your thumbs on your partner’s nose, specifically on the nasal bones, which are about ¾-inch long below the bridge of the nose.
  2. Pressure on certain points on the head and face can help ease sinus congestion.

    Pressure on certain points on the head and face can help ease sinus congestion.

  3. Your fingers will be pointed up in almost a prayer position while you apply gentle pressure on the nasal bones for about 30 seconds, each thumb pressing toward your other thumb.
  4. Work your way from the point where the crease above the nostril joins the cheek, pressing there for about a few seconds, and then along the base of the cheekbone, stopping and holding pressure points for several seconds wherever you sense them.
  5. Be sure to press directly below the pupil of the eye along the cheekbone for several seconds.
  6. End with the headache point indentation where the ear joins the face for another 30 seconds. Don’t angle up on this point, but apply the gentle pressure straight in.

In general, stimulating the acupressure points for sinus congestion opens the sinuses and releases pressure anywhere from immediately following the massage to 20 or 30 minutes after your partner is upright again and off the table.

These two simple, yet effective massages will alleviate most headaches and sinus problems. For more great massages, check out our Quick Guides How to Give a Pain-Relieving Foot Massage and How to Give a Massage to Relieve Computer-Related Aches and Pains. Here’s to a great massage!

From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Massage Illustrated by Victoria Jordan Stone, CMT, and Bob Shell