What is sinus pain?

Between nasal congestion and discharge, facial pain, fullness, pressure, and headaches, sinus pain can make you feel pretty lousy.

Sinus pain and congestion are usually caused by seasonal allergies or the common cold. Some people, however, experience repeated bouts of sinus pain and congestion due to:

  • abnormal tissue growth inside the nose, called nasal polyps
  • an uneven wall of tissue between the nostrils, known as a deviated septum
  • another illness

This type of nasal congestion (where one experiences repeated or lengthy episodes) is called chronic sinusitis. It affects nearly 30 million Americans.

Over-the-counter and prescription medication are typically used for relieving sinus discomfort. However, if you want to try something different, you might consider sinus massage.

Massage helps promote drainage from the sinuses and ease congestion. And all you need for this home remedy are your fingers.

Self-massage is easy to do by yourself. All it takes is just a few minutes of gently massaging and putting pressure on the appropriate parts of your face.

The human body has four pairs of sinuses. Each one is named after the bones in which they’re found. You can massage just the sinuses that are bothering you, or try massaging all four of the sinus areas.

1. Frontal sinus massage

The frontal sinuses are found in the center of the forehead, right above each eye.

  1. Start by rubbing your hands together to warm them up.
  2. Place your index and middle fingers on either side of the forehead, just above the eyebrows.
  3. Massage slowly in a circular outward motion, working your way outwards, towards the temples.
  4. Do this for about 30 seconds.

2. Maxillary sinus massage

The maxillary sinuses are located on either side of the nose, below the cheeks, but above the teeth. They’re the largest of the four sinuses.

  1. Place your index and middle fingers on the area between the cheek bones and the upper jaw, on either side of the nose.
  2. Massage this area in a circular motion for about 30 seconds.
  3. For stronger pressure, use your thumbs instead of your index fingers.

3. Sphenoid/ethmoid sinus massage

The sphenoid sinuses can be found on the side of the skull in the sphenoid bone, which is behind the nose and between the eyes, just below the pituitary gland. The ethmoid sinuses are located in the ethmoid bone, the bone that divides the nasal cavity from the brain.

This technique will address both types of sinuses.

  1. Place your index fingers on the bridge of your nose.
  2. Find the area between your nasal bone and the corner of the eyes.
  3. Hold a firm pressure in that spot with your fingers for about 15 seconds.
  4. Then, using your index fingers, stroke downward along the side of the bridge of your nose.
  5. Repeat the slow downward strokes for about 30 seconds.

You can repeat all of these massages several times until your sinuses feel relieved from congestion. You can also combine sinus massage with other home remedies like warm compresses or steam inhalation, for added relief.

The sinuses are a system of hollow cavities in your skull. Scientists have been in a heated debate over the true function of the sinuses for decades. Some believe they play a role in humidifying and filtering the air we breathe. They may also serve to lighten the bones of the skull and help enhance the voice.

Healthy sinuses are basically empty cavities with just a thin layer of mucus. Sinuses that become inflamed (from a cold, flu, or allergies, for example) produce mucus. This leads to congestion, which in turn causes facial pressure and pain.

You might experience sinus pain in one or all four of the sinus locations. Many people with sinusitis have pain all over their face, regardless of which sinus is affected.

Massaging the sinuses is thought to help sinus pain and congestion by relieving pressure and helping the sinus drain out mucus. The gentle pressure and warmth from the hands may also help by increasing blood circulation to the area.

However, not a lot of research has been done on sinus massage. A few smaller studies show promising results, but more research is needed.

In one recent study, facial massage therapy significantly reduced the severity of sinus headaches in 35 women. In another study in male athletes with chronic sinusitis, facial therapeutic massage was shown to significantly reduce facial congestion and facial tenderness compared to the control group who didn’t receive a massage.

There isn’t any reliable research to show whether the effects of a sinus massage are long-lasting. Some licensed massage therapists suggest that the massage process needs to be repeated throughout the day to prevent sinus pressure from building up again.

You can tailor the massage to focus more on a particular area of the face, depending on your symptoms.

Sinus massage is one of many home remedies that can help relieve sinus pressure, pain, or congestion. Research proving that it works is limited, but small studies suggest it could be beneficial for some people.

You may need to repeat the massage techniques a few times throughout the day to prevent mucus from accumulating in the sinuses again.

If you have severe pain that doesn’t go away despite home treatment, or your sinus pain accompanies a high fever (above 102°F or 38.9°C), see your doctor. It could be a sinus infection or another underlying issue that requires medical treatment.