This video, which comes courtesy of @sandycheekedupp, details exactly how to drain sinuses through each step of this facial massage that has made the rounds on TikTok:
- She starts by putting a tiny bit of peppermint oil in Vaseline, then takes a generous amount and smears it around her frontal sinuses (above the eyebrows and on either side of the nose along the cheekbones).
- Then, she presses the ends of her ring fingers to the inner corner of her eyebrows, her middle fingers above her arches, and then the pointer fingers to her temples.
- With firm pressure, she pushes her pointer fingers down around to the outer sides of her cheeks.
- Finally, she opens up her sinuses by pressing on the area next to her nose below her eye and wipes away from her nostril, holding her nose with the other hand, then strokes down her jawline.
- Afterward, she sounds noticeably less stuffed up and appears to have cleared away puffiness in her face.
If you’re left wondering, is this for real? A quick look through the comments will show you that plenty of people expressed doubts that this sinus drainage massage would actually work to get rid of mucus, while others swore by it. Full disclosure: Experts are mixed on this one. Here’s the deal.
- Chris Coller, DO, board-certified family medicine doctor who practices functional and integrative medicine
- Daniel Beswick, MD, otolaryngologist at UCLA Health
- Harvey Kaufman, MD, medical doctor and senior medical director of medical informatics at Quest Diagnostics
- Leah Welsh, DO, family medicine and integrative medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
- Robin Pappal, MD, comprehensive ear, nose, and throat physician at Mass Eye and Ear
It could help move fluid through your sinuses
“Changing the pressure in and around your sinuses can absolutely help drainage,” says Leah Welsh, DO, family medicine and integrative medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. There are 22 bones in the skull and face, all with connections that can expand and contract and influence how fluid moves through your head, she explains.
Think of your facial sinuses like major highways in your face: These highways are all connected, and there are some major cavities in your cheeks that lead to your throat. Because of this, a properly-performed facial massage might help move along fluid and quell that oh-my-god-I'm-drowning-in-mucus feeling, says Harvey Kaufman, MD, senior medical director at Quest Diagnostics.
It can also stimulate the nerves above your eyes and cheeks, which can help your sinuses to drain, says Chris Coller, DO, a board-certified family medicine doctor who practices functional and integrative medicine. “You’re manually shaking things up,” he says, noting that osteopaths often learn a number of sinus techniques like this in school.
Then again, it may just be the placebo effect at play
Other doctors aren’t so sure that this—or any—sinus massage would really do much to drain mucus, based on the anatomy of the face. “A massage would be very unlikely to help clear the sinuses or promote sinus drainage,” says Daniel Beswick, MD, an otolaryngologist at UCLA Health. “The sinuses are protected by a bony periphery underneath the soft tissues of the face, so the pressure of the massage isn’t transmitted into the actual sinuses.”
Though, you may end up feeling relief from a placebo effect or even because the massage is helping with something else. “If massage is helping your symptoms, it's likely a sign that your facial pressure is caused by headaches and not sinus inflammation, though you can have both at the same time,” says Robin Pappal, MD, a comprehensive ear, nose, and throat physician at Mass Eye and Ear.
While Dr. Pappal is doubtful this move can help drain your sinuses, she says it can definitely help with facial swelling. “We often have patients perform something like this after surgery and for infections in the face,” she says.
How else can you manually drain your sinuses?
While this facial massage my be TikTok trendy, it's not the only way to use physical pressure on your face to relieve congestion. There’s a lot of variations on this technique but the principles are the same, says Dr. Coller. In general, he says, “it’s the same kind of idea with osteopathic technique, where you take the meaty part of your finger and drag it across your forehead.”
When you're so stuffed up that it take effort just to breathe naturally, there are a few pressure points you can target. "Some people find that massaging your temples, the area between the cheekbones and the upper jaw, or the area between your nasal bone and the corner of the eyes may help with relief," says Dr. Kaufman.
Why? Mucus and inflammation can build up pressure in these areas and cavities, which can lead to headaches or a "stuffed up" feeling. Rubbing these areas for 10 seconds each from top to bottom can loosen things up and relieve some of that pressure.
Another way to massage your sinuses, says Dr. Kaufman, is by using your index fingers. Place them just above the crease and below the bridge of the nose, he says. "Firmly (but not too hard) push inward, guiding your index fingers down towards the crease and then moving outward so that the index fingers travel just below the cheekbones," he says. You should be able to feel your sinuses opening as the skin around your mid-face gently moves outward as you continue guiding your index fingers outward to where your cheekbones stop, he adds.
Dr. Kaufman stresses that this may help relieve symptoms—the research on this technique is inconclusive, but some studies point to massage's ability to relieve nasal congestion. Once you finish your massage, make sure to blow your nose as well (cue up those signature nose-blowing sounds). Getting the mucus building up in your sinus cavities out of your body and into tissues is the priority—and be sure to use moisturizing tissues to avoid a chapped nose.
Other ways to help your sinuses drain
Just like pretty much every expert always recommends: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. When you want to encourage your sinuses to drain, you need to do what you can to help thin out the mucus by keeping it as moist as possible. In addition to drinking plenty of fluids, you can try using a humidifier (especially at night) or taking a steamy shower to keep your nose from drying out.
And when you need to blow your nose, make sure you're doing it with proper technique (yes, there is a right and a wrong way to blow): Gently blow just one side of your nose at a time, blocking off the other nostril with your finger, and not using so much force that you damage the blood vessels.
Does it hurt to try a sinus massage to drain mucus?
While doctors and the research are mixed on whether this actually works, experts agree that a sinus drainage massage is generally harmless. “If the massage seems to be helping, by all means, go ahead,” Dr. Pappal says. “Massage is certainly not going to hurt anything.”
That said, if your sinuses won't drain and you're feeling stuffed up for more than 10 days, it's time to make an appointment with a healthcare provider—you might need something more powerful than hitting a few pressure points to help you feel better.
In the meantime though, Dr. Coller says that anybody who is dealing with upper respiratory sinus issues—whether from allergies, viruses, or sinus infections—may want to give sinus massage a go. “I would do it,” he adds.
- Takeuchi, H et al. “The effects of nasal massage of the “yingxiang” acupuncture point on nasal airway resistance and sensation of nasal airflow in patients with nasal congestion associated with acute upper respiratory tract infection.” American journal of rhinology vol. 13,2 (1999): 77-9. doi:10.2500/105065899782106670
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