A Face Massage for Headaches

A Face Massage for Headaches

Headaches are a certain type of hell—not being able to think, sleep, focus at work, be your usual winning self at home. This fifteen- to twenty-minute routine is for anyone who deals with them. In the US, roughly 13 percent of the population—37 million people—suffers from them. For many people, headaches are brought on by stress, which is why Heidi Frederick and Rachel Lang of NYC-based FaceLove have developed soothing face-massage techniques to address both the headaches themselves and the stress that may bring them on (and more, see Face-Massage Your Way to Sleep). “Activating trigger points on the face, neck, and head can help redirect and reduce head pain, while stimulating reflexive points on the feet has an overall body-harmonizing effect,” points out Frederick. If you’re in NYC, make an appointment (the treatments are pure heaven); if not, you can perform the techniques yourself with this regimen the two designed exclusively for goop.

  1. Set the mood: Start with a clean, moisturized face; wear comfortable clothing
; let your hair loose; dim the lights; play meditative music.

  2. Draw a warm foot bath in a large bowl, and add a few drops of lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, or rosemary oil.

  3. Briefly soak a hand towel in lavender- or bergamot-oil-infused water. Wring it out, and heat it (in a microwave-safe container) for one to two minutes. Have it on hand, along with a paddle brush and a chilled jade roller (or ice cubes).

The Protocol:
  1. Soak your feet. Stress can’t swim: Immersing feet in the essential-oil-infused bath initiates a relaxed state of being and pulls heat and stress from the upper body to be released through the lower body.

  2. While soaking, firmly brush the scalp: Start with your head upright, then lower chin to chest, brushing from the back of the head to the crown.

  3. Interlace your fingers behind the base of the head, dropping elbows toward the floor to let gravity weigh the head down. Hold for thirty to sixty seconds.

  4. Remove your feet from the soak, and wrap them in the warm towel, pressing through the towel with your hands to maximize the sensation.

  5. Massage in foot cream (something pepperminty feels spectacular), starting with a “foot hug” position: Wrap both hands at the top of the foot, one hand on the bottom and one hand on top so they meet. Slide both hands down toward the heel with heavy pressure and back up several times.

  6. Using a thumb-over-thumb technique, massage the side of the foot, just under the inner ankle bone, from heel to toes several times.

  7. Move to the arch of the foot, massaging thumb-over-thumb toward the toes, shifting to firmly press and circle the ball and heel of the foot.

  8. Repeat on other foot.

  9. Heat another towel (you can dunk it in lavender- or bergamot-oil-infused water first), and place it over your face. Gently press, emphasizing the jaw, temple, and eye area, until the heat disperses.

  10. Follow immediately with a chilled jade roller or ice cube wrapped in paper towel; gently roll it across the eyes, temples, and the space between the brows to create maximum circulation from the two different temperatures, as in a Russian-bath sauna/cold plunge experience.

  11. Lie down in a comfortable position on a bed, couch, or mat, making sure there’s no pressure on your back. (Propping a pillow under your knees helps relieve lower-back pressure.)

  12. With firm, piano-playing fingers, knead the area just above the ears—the temporalis muscle—for thirty to sixty seconds.

  13. Press the palms of your hands firmly into the temporalis muscles on either side of your head, and squeeze every muscle in the face as tightly as possible (jaw, eyes, forehead, chin). Then release and expand the muscles (open the mouth and eyes, lift the brows up) while pressing into the temples. Repeat three times.

  14. Massage the ears by pulling on them, and work the jaw muscles with your fingers—moving them in firm upward circles—for fifteen to thirty seconds; repeat three times.

  15. Grip your scalp as if you’re intensely shampooing it for thirty to sixty seconds. Linger on the spots where the sensation feels most powerful and heavenly.

  16. Interlace your fingers behind the base of the head again, dropping elbows toward the floor so the head hangs heavy. Then extend the neck muscles up away from the spine, gripping the upper trapezius muscles (i.e., most of the upper back and back of the neck) to add slight pressure. Repeat several times.

  17. Grip the upper shoulder muscles and side neck muscles one side at a time to release tension. It should feel like a good hurt.

  18. Taking deep, slow breaths, gently apply pressure with your palms to your closed eyelids. Press eyes inward for an internal massage. The eyes are extremely sensitive to head pain, which is why they can be so sensitive light. Repeat three to ten times.

  19. Smile—it has a ripple effect on overall well-being. The feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin are all released when a smile flashes across your face. The more we smile, the more we want to.