It’s cold season. Here in New York, it feels like it’s cold season much of the year, whether it’s appropriately chilly out or not. The common cold comes in many forms, from many strains, with a variety of symptoms. Today, I want to talk about the sinus headache. You know the one: the stuffy nose, the ache in the front of the head, the foggy feeling. Ick.
Personally, I am a big fan of hot and sour soup, tea with honey, hot baths, and the neti pot when I am sick, as well as some good, old-fashioned self-massage. Professionally, I won’t delve into the first suggestions as they’re not in my scope, but I think sinus massage warrants some discussion. I am a big fan — there is something meditative about face massage, and a real satisfaction in bringing relief to those feeling stuffy. Plus, sinuses are fascinating.
The paranasal sinuses are air cavities in the cranial bones that serve some important functions. They lubricate and help filter our nasal passages, assist with voice resonance, and lighten the skull (an important thing to remember when you’re sick and feeling heavy-headed — you’d be so much worse off without those sinuses!).
The last bit, about lightening the skull, is important for massage. The bones surrounding the sinuses are thinner than they would be otherwise, and they are actually somewhat pliable. This means that pressing on the face can directly affect the sinus cavities, helping them drain and bringing you relief.
When I perform sinus massage, I use hot towels to loosen up what’s stuck, and I massage the whole face. When I’m sick myself, the routine is much simpler, pressing fingertips into the bones of the face to put pressure on the sinus cavities and get things moving.
Here is a simple routine to try when you are next under the weather:
- With index fingers, press into the nook where the top of your nose meets your brow. Maintaining gentle pressure against the face and staying in that spot, move fingertips in tiny circles, with an up-and-outward direction. Use both hands to massage both sides of the face at once.
- Working one side of the face at a time, hook the pad of your thumb into your brow bone just under the eyebrow. Press gently in an upward direction for a few seconds, then release and press again, moving the thumb to the side this time. Press along the entire brow line, beginning at the inner corner of the brow and moving toward the temple. Repeat on other side.
- Return your index fingers to the nook at the top of your nose. Press fingertips into the base of the nose, where its side slopes into your cheek. Release and press again, moving down the outer edge of the nose with a press-and-release motion, all the way down to the outer edge of your nostrils.
- At the end of this last step, your fingertips will naturally be pressing into the very inner edge of your zygomatic bone, more commonly known as the cheekbone. Using index fingers or thumbs, hook under the cheekbone as best you can and press in an upward direction, releasing and moving laterally just as you did with the brow. You should feel some relief.
There are some things to keep in mind with this routine: Go slow, feel free to linger anywhere that feels good (or try pressing into other places — the photo in this post shows where the sinuses are), and repeat as necessary.