This time of year we are exposed to all sorts of nasties, which can leave our sinuses in overdrive. Changes in temperature, environmental allergies and illnesses can all contribute to sinus inflammation. If you are one who suffers from sinus inflammation, you will know that it can be difficult to function normally when symptoms rear their ugly heads! Sinuses are air-filled sacs that clean the air that we breathe through the nose. They lighten the bones of the skill, and provide shape to the face. Allergies, infections and physical obstructions can cause the sinuses become inflamed or swollen. (1)
There are four sinus points located above, either side of, and behind the nose. The sinuses are named after the bones of the skull in which they are located (2).
- Frontal Sinuses: located on the center of the forehead above the brow-line of each eye, on the frontal bone
- Sphenoid Sinuses: located deep to the nose, near the optic nerve on the Sphenoid bone
- Ethmoid Sinuses: small air sacs located on either side of the bridge of the nose. The Ethmoid bone separates the nasal cavity from the brain
- Maxillary Sinuses: located behind the cheekbones near the Maxilla or upper jaw
Causes of sinus inflammation
- Viruses, bacteria and fungi: cold or flu
- Structural problems: deviated septum, nasal polyps can obstruct the flow of mucus and block drainage (3)
- Environmental irritants: indoor and outdoor pollutants, grasses and pollens, certain foods
- Tenderness in the affected area
- Swelling and puffiness around the eyes
- Runny or congested nose
- Facial or tooth pain
When inflammation occurs, pain may also be present in the surrounding muscles of the face, the upper neck and the jaw. In structural and environmental cases of sinus inflammation, gentle massage around the face and neck will help to drain the sinuses and relieve pressure from the affected areas.
If a fever and infection is present, massage can exasperate symptoms. In this case it is best to wait until the fever has passed before bodywork is performed. (1)
See our article on ‘Cold, Flu and Massage’.
Self care massage for sinus relief
- Set yourself up in a comfortable position, preferably supporting your head and neck.
- Spread your fingers wide, place your fingers and thumbs around your scalp line and gently move your fingers in small circles
- Have your fingers meet in the center of your forehead, slowly drag your fingertips towards each ear (frontal sinus)
- Take your index or middle finger and slowly draw small circles along your eyebrow line, starting from your nose and gently migrating laterally towards each ear (frontal sinus)
- Bring your middle fingers back to the bridge of your nose. Find two little nodules, where your nasal bone meets the frontal bone. Hold a firm pressure for 10-15 seconds. (Ethmoid sinus)
- Move your fingers back to the bridge of your nose. This time, drag your fingers down each side of your nose (sphenoid sinus)
- Take a flat finger on either side of your nose, and gently drag along each cheek bone towards your ears (maxillary sinus)
- Small circles on the temporalis, (clench the jaw to locate the temporalis muscle)
- Firm pressure on the temporalis, slowly push your fingers away from your face (towards the back of your head) as you slowly open your mouth
- Small circles around the ear, (TMJ, Coracoid process and temporalis tendon)
- Gently pull your ears for a temporalis release
- A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology Ruth Werner LMP, NCTMB, fifth edition, pg. 332
- A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology Ruth Werner LMP, NCTMB, fifth edition, pg. 333
This article/video is for educational purposes only; do not attempt without your physician’s clearance. If you are in pain or injured, see your physician.
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