Healthy Body

Feeling Stuffed Up? This Sinus Massage *Might* Clear Everything Out and Depuff Your Face in the Process

Photo: Getty Images/Maria Korneeva
Having a stuffy nose is hardly fun, but it’s that time of year when illnesses are going around, ramping up the odds your sinuses will get clogged at some point. When that happens, you have a few options: You can blow your nose and hope it’ll do something, try a nasal rinse, or give yourself this sinus massage that’s popping right now on TikTok.

The TikTok, which comes courtesy of @sandycheekedupp, details exactly how to do each step of this sinus massage to drain mucus and depuff your face:


#greenscreen #sinusrelief #sinusdrainage

♬ original sound - Sandy cheeked up

  1. She starts by putting a tiny bit of peppermint oil in Vaseline, then takes a generous amount and smears it around her sinuses.
  2. Then, she presses the ends of her ring fingers to the inner corner of her eyebrows, her middle fingers above her arches, and the pointer finger to her temples.
  3. She presses firmly, pushing down around to the outer sides of her cheeks.
  4. Finally, she opens up her sinuses, pressing on the area next to her nose below her eye and away from her nostril.
  5. 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 massage would actually work to drain mucus, while others swore by it. Full disclosure: Experts are mixed on this one. Here’s the deal.

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 or sutures” that can expand and contract and influence how fluid moves through your head, she explains—and this massage helps move fluid—like the mucus that’s built up in your sinuses—along.

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.

There’s a lot of variation 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.”

Then again, it may just be the placebo effect at play

Other doctors aren’t so sure 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.

Does it hurt to try this sinus massage to drain mucus and depuff your face?

While they’re mixed on whether this actually works, experts agree that the 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.”

Dr. Coller says that anybody who is dealing with upper respiratory sinus issues—whether from allergies, viruses, or sinus infections—may want to give it a go. “I would do it,” he adds.


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