If you suffer from chronic headaches, you probably know that relying on medication every time the pain flares up isn’t a good plan. You could end up relying on pain medication, developing rebound headaches, or even suffer systemic health effects, such as liver or kidney problems. If you are looking for drug-free remedies, you might consider acupressure.

Adding pressure to the LI-4, GB-21 and GB-20 located at the base of your thumb and forefinger, midway between the neck and shoulder and at the base of the skull will all help to relieve headaches

Acupressure Claims of Effectiveness

Proponents of alternative medicine are quick to champion the effectiveness of acupressure for headaches. According to them, you can dispel many types of headaches just by finding the proper pressure points. Two of the most common pressure points for headaches are at the base of the skull in the back. These points, called the “gates of consciousness” in some sources, can be used to release tension in the head, and can cure these headaches as well as many other complaints, such as fibromyalgia, tinnitus, hypertension, and even a judgmental attitude.

Other common pressure points recommended for headaches include the meaty part of the hand above the webbing between index finger and thumb, the temples, the inside curve of the eyebrows near the bridge of the nose, and your foot where bones from your big toe and index toe meet.

When headaches occur, simply find the proper acupressure point that works for your headache and press.

Does Acupressure Work for Headaches?

Overall, there is not a lot of data to support the effectiveness of acupressure. There is some support saying that acupressure is better than muscle relaxation therapy for headaches, and other studies that support the overall effectiveness of the technique for pain. There has even been some work to determine the mechanism by which acupressure might relieve pain.

Perhaps most importantly, there has been work attempting to determine who might benefit from acupressure and who won’t. According to this study, acupressure may be effective in up to 55% of people with tension headaches, although by using some variables, it’s possible to predict success with a better than 80% accuracy.

How to Use Acupressure for Headaches

Acupressure techniques vary among different traditional practices. However, there are three different acupressure points that are commonly recommended for headaches.


This pressure point is located at the base of your thumb and forefinger. Here’s how to stimulate it to relieve headaches:

  • Relax one hand so that the thumb and fingers spread apart loosely. With the other hand, feel for the  point where the index finger and thumb come together.
  • Press down on this point for five minutes
  • Repeat with the other hand.

This is generally found to be effective, but it provides only temporary relief. Fortunately, you can repeat it as necessary (there are no side effects).


This pressure point is located about midway between the neck and shoulder.

  • Reach up with one hand to pinch the shoulder muscle where it starts to slope up to the neck. You’re not pinching too hard, just trying to find the center of the muscle.
  • Release the pinch and apply downward pressure to massage the muscle for 4-5 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

It is sometimes said that this pressure point can induce labor, so it shouldn’t be used by pregnant women.


This pressure point has some reasonable scientific support. Here’s how to use it:

  • Find the hollow areas at the base of the skull by starting at your ear and moving backward along the base of the skull until you find the slight depression at the back of the skull above the vertebrae where the neck muscles attach to the skull.
  • Apply pressure with your index fingers to both points simultaneously for 4-5 seconds.
  • Alternately, you can clasp your hands together and use them to cradle your head while you apply pressure to these points with your thumbs.

These pressure points are especially good for relieving headaches linked to neck tension.

Effective Headache Relief

The primary benefit of acupressure is that it’s unlikely to be harmful, which makes it a reasonable approach to try if you’re looking to reduce your medication load. However, if it doesn’t work for you, we have a drug-free  headache treatment with a high degree of success. To learn more about whether TMJ treatment can effectively reduce your headaches, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.