It’s that time of year again. Coughs, colds, and sniffles are doing the rounds, and stuffy sinuses abound. Facial pain, tightness, and pressure from inflamed sinuses can be one of the most uncomfortable symptoms of a winter cold, and it’s one of the hardest to relieve through over the counter medicines. So, what’s a suffering person to do? A simple massage technique may have the answer.
What are sinuses?
Sinuses are hollow cavities within your skull. The human face has sinus cavities in the forehead (just above each eyebrow and the root of your nose), running down the sides of your nose, and flaring out from your nostrils into two wide spaces between your cheekbone and your upper jaw. Sinuses have several functions, including helping your face and voice to be more expressive, and keeping your ear-nose-throat area healthy. One of the ways in which they perform this latter function is by producing mucus to keep pollutants, germs, and foreign bodies out of your body.
What happens when sinuses get inflamed?
It’s quite common for people to confuse sinuses with the nasal cavity. When you have a blocked nose, this essentially means that there is too much mucus in your nasal cavity. It’s not pleasant, but you can clear it by periodically blowing your nose.
Inflamed sinuses are a different matter. Inflamed sinuses are going overtime producing mucus in order to combat whatever infection you’re fighting off. Some of that ends up in your nasal cavity, but a lot of it stays trapped in your skull - leading to that tight, painful pressure in your head and face. While you can massage roughly in the area of your sinuses (and some people do seem to find relief from this), it’s worth noting that your sinuses are behind a layer of bone, so the impact your fingers have on any inflammation could be limited.
What does seem to work for most people, however, is a lymphatic massage.
What’s a lymphatic massage?
The lymphatic system is an essential part of your body’s waste disposal system. A fluid called ‘lymph’ is sent from lymph nodes situated all over your body to inflamed areas. It brings in infection-fighting white blood cells, and it takes away unwanted fluids and toxins.
When you get ill with a cold or flu, you may find that the top of your neck, at the base of your mandibles (where your jaws meets your throat) feels sensitive. This is because there are important lymph nodes situated there, and they’re working very hard to get the infection under control.
Sometimes, the lymph system can get backed up. It usually sorts things out without too much trouble, but you may find that your sinuses fill with fluid in the meantime. Massaging lymphatic points in your face and neck can help to break down any blockage and enable your lymphatic system to drain your sinuses more effectively.
How to perform a lymphatic massage on yourself for sinus relief
Before we go into this any further, it’s important to say that you should not apply too much pressure. You want to stimulate your lymph nodes, not to squish them!
The main lymph nodes working on your sinuses are the ones we mentioned earlier - the pea-sized nodules underneath your mandibles. If you’re not sure how to find them, place the tips of your index finger at the base of your earlobes. You should feel the sides of your jaw against the sides of your fingers. Trace your jawline down until it curves into your chin. Just there, at the curve, where your jaw meets your neck move your fingers under the jaw onto the fleshy part of your neck. The lymph nodes are located just here. If you’re suffering from a sinus infection, it will be easy to locate these lymph nodes as the area will be swollen and/or sensitive. If you can’t feel anything - congratulations! Your infection is probably well on its way out.
Now, to open your lymph nodes and help with sinus drainage, tap this area gently, or rub in gentle circular motions. Do this in thirty or so seconds. Before long, you should start to feel a decrease in sinus pressure as your lymphatic system revs up and drains away excess sinus fluid. Keep doing this as and when needed in order to keep the worst of your symptoms at bay.
Simple, isn’t it? Many people find sinus relief through this basic massage technique. However, if symptoms do persist or worsen, you should see a doctor. Lymphatic massage is excellent for basic coughs and colds but should not be used in the place of professional medical treatment.