Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. It affects about 15% to 20% of people and can significantly impact quality of life. While there is no cure for most cases of tinnitus, various management strategies exist that aim to lessen its severity. One such strategy involves stimulating pressure points on the body to help alleviate tinnitus symptoms. But where exactly are these tinnitus pressure points located?
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be caused by a number of factors, including:
- Age-related hearing loss
- Exposure to loud noises
- Earwax blockages
- Ear bone changes
- Malformation of capillaries
- Acoustic neuroma (benign tumor on cranial nerve)
- Meniere’s disease
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- Head or neck injuries
- Certain medications
The most common cause is age-related hearing loss, which leads to dysfunction in the cochlea (auditory portion of the inner ear). When the cochlea becomes damaged, it can spur neural circuits in the brain to misfire, causing phantom sounds in the absence of actual external noise.
Other structures in the ear can also be involved. For example, otosclerosis stems from abnormal bone growth in the middle ear, while TMJ disorders affect the joint near the ear. Acoustic neuroma involves a noncancerous tumor pressing on the vestibulocochlear nerve.
Regardless of the initial trigger, tinnitus originates from a problem that leads to abnormal nerve signaling between the inner ear and brain. This erroneous nerve communication makes the brain think that there is an ongoing sound when there really isn’t.
How Does Stimulating Pressure Points Help Tinnitus?
Pressing on certain areas of the body can activate the sympathetic nervous system. This is the branch of the autonomic nervous system involved in the “fight-or-flight” response. Activation of the sympathetic nervous system causes changes such as:
- Constriction of blood vessels
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Pupil dilation
Such effects are thought to possibly counteract some of the neural circuits involved in tinnitus perception. This could theoretically lessen or cover up the phantom sounds.
Stimulating acupressure points also increases circulation in surrounding tissues. This boosted blood flow may help nourish ear structures and improve nerve function in the auditory pathway.
The exact mechanisms behind why pressure therapy might alleviate tinnitus are still being investigated. But anecdotal evidence suggests it brings relief for some people.
Neck Pressure Points for Tinnitus
Several areas on the neck can be stimulated to potentially ease tinnitus:
GB20 stands for gallbladder 20. This pressure point is located in the natural indentation between the upper neck and base of the skull, on both sides of the spinal column.
To find it:
- Tip head forward to access the neck.
- Use fingers to feel for a subtle hollow under the base of the skull, right beside the two vertical neck muscles.
- Press into the hollow crevices on either side of the spine.
GB20 can be stimulated by applying firm pressure in a circular rubbing motion for several minutes. This point is thought to have a general balancing influence on nerve communication and blood flow.
GB21 stands for gallbladder 21. It is positioned at the highest point of the shoulder muscle, midway between the spine and shoulder’s outer edge.
To locate it:
- Tip head to the opposite side to access the side of the neck.
- Feel for the large, distinct muscle that forms the border of the neck and shoulder (trapezius muscle).
- Move halfway down that muscle and apply deep pressure.
As with GB20, try slowly rubbing GB21 in a circular motion for a few minutes. The stimulation can be done on both sides. This point may help relax tense muscles that could be exacerbating tinnitus.
SI17 stands for small intestine 17. It is considered an important acupoint for ears, hearing, and balance issues. SI17 is located directly beneath the ear lobe, in the hollow area behind the jawbone.
To stimulate it:
- Use fingers to probe the area below and behind the earlobe.
- Press deeply into the indented notch against the jawbone.
- Massage in small circles for several minutes as needed.
Activation of SI17 may improve blood circulation around the ear and modulate nerve signals related to hearing and balance.
Head and Face Pressure Points for Tinnitus
In addition to the neck, some areas on the head and face can also be stimulated to help tinnitus:
TH17 stands for triple heater 17. This point is located in the indentations on the outer ear cartilage, directly in front of the ear’s auditory canal.
To stimulate it:
- Use thumbs or index fingers to feel for soft depressions on the ear cartilage.
- Apply steady pressure in a circular motion.
- Stimulate both sides for 30 seconds to 1 minute as needed.
Massaging TH17 is thought to modulate nerve signals between the ear and brain. This may disrupt misfiring circuits involved in phantom sound perception.
ST2 stands for stomach 2. It’s found on the upper part of the cheekbone, in line with the pupil when looking straight ahead.
To locate it:
- Make a diagonal line from the corner of the nose to the corner of the eye.
- Press into the notch in the middle of the cheekbone along that imaginary line.
- Massage in small circles for several minutes.
ST2 stimulation may provide general pain and stress relief in the facial region. This could help calm agitated nerves that lead to increased tinnitus perception.
GB14 means gallbladder 14. This point is behind the center of the forehead, about one inch above where the eyebrows meet.
To find it:
- Use fingertips to probe the area one inch up from the brow line and along the skull midline.
- Press in and rub gently back and forth or in small circles as desired.
GB14 is thought to have a stabilizing effect on the nervous system as a whole. This may improve communication circuits between the brain and ears.
Self-Massage Techniques and Tips
When stimulating tinnitus pressure points, keep these tips in mind for best results:
- Use steady firm pressure, but not to the point of pain.
- Massage in small circular motions or back-and-forth rubbing.
- Breathe deeply and relax during stimulation.
- Start with 5-10 minutes per area and increase over time as desired.
- Consistency is key – aim to stimulate points daily.
- Combine with other therapies like sound masking, stress reduction, and homeopathic remedies.
- Keep a log to identify which points work best for you.
Self-massage is generally safe, but avoid pressure points if you have blood clotting issues or take blood thinners. Those who are pregnant should also use caution and speak to their healthcare provider first.
Professional Acupressure Treatment
For some cases of tinnitus, professional acupressure may provide added benefit:
- Trained practitioners can access a wider array of pressure points.
- They can use tools to stimulate points deeper under the skin’s surface.
- The coordinated treatment plan they develop may work better than general self-massage.
- Their specialized expertise optimizes point selection and sequencing.
If interested in professional treatment, look for a licensed acupuncturist or chiropractor certified in acupressure. Schedule an initial consultation to discuss your tinnitus symptoms and health history. They can then tailor an appropriate acupressure regimen.
Plan for 6-12 treatment sessions to start. While not covered by insurance, the out-of-pocket costs are generally affordable, especially considering the potential benefits.
Other Complementary Therapies
In addition to acupressure, several other complementary medicine techniques may help provide tinnitus relief:
Acupuncture uses ultra-thin needles to stimulate pressure points instead of finger pressure. There is some preliminary evidence that it may reduce tinnitus loudness and annoyance.
Chiropractors specialize in spinal manipulation and posture correction. This can alleviate neck tension and realign the bones surrounding nerves leading to the ears.
Gentle manipulation along the head, spine, and sacrum aims to enhance cerebrospinal fluid flow around the brain and ears.
Hypnosis guides the mind into a deep state of relaxation and heightened focus. This helps tune out and retrain neural pathways affected by tinnitus.
Electronic biofeedback devices help identify and voluntarily change physiological responses related to stress and sound perception.
Yoga and Meditation
These mind-body practices reduce anxiety and teach skills for directing attention away from tinnitus.
A whole-person integrative approach combining several such modalities may provide optimal results. Work closely with your healthcare team to determine the best mix for your situation.
The Bottom Line
In summary, the most effective pressure points for tinnitus focus around the head, face, and neck regions:
- GB20 – Base of skull
- GB21 – Shoulder muscle
- SI17 – Below ear
- TH17 – Outer ear cartilage
- ST2 – Cheekbone
- GB14 – Forehead
Gently massaging these acupressure points may help modulate nerve signals, increase circulation, and reduce muscle tension in areas involved in tinnitus perception. Carefully stimulating them yourself provides a safe, low-risk therapy to possibly turn down the volume. Combine with other holistic approaches for optimal effects.
While not a cure, pressure point therapy offers a drug-free option that could make a difference in living more comfortably with tinnitus. It empowers patients to play an active role in managing this frustrating condition. With some experimentation to find what works best for your unique case, you may finally experience some welcome quietude.
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