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Massage for Sinus Drainage and Sinusitis

Most people who have received a massage have most likely experienced their sinuses draining, or noticed a stuffy nose start to come on as the massage progressed. Why is it that this happens, and can massage therapy help?

There are 2 reasons why this may occur.  Firstly, lying prone (face down) stimulates the release of histamine which increases fluids in the nasal cavity, leaving a stuffy nose.   The second is that lying in the prone position will naturally release sinus fluid due to gravity. You may also feel this buildup of pressure of sinus fluid if you have sinusitis.

Sinusitis is an acute or chronic inflammation process of the paranasal sinuses.  The cause of sinusitis may be from a viral infection such as a cold, a bacterial infection from dental work or cavities, or an increase in pressure that you may experience during a flight or underwater diving. With acute sinusitis, there is inflammation and swelling of the sinus mucosa.  Because of this, the sinus openings become blocked. Chronic sinusitis occurs as a result of persistent or recurring infection. Symptoms of sinusitis are a feeling of fullness and pressure in the affected sinus, difficulty breathing through your nose, and pain or tenderness over the affected sinus.

Whether you are experiencing acute or chronic sinusitis, or just experiencing sinus fluid buildup from lying prone, massage can help with the draining process and help relieve symptoms.  Massage to the head, neck and shoulders are recommended to help relax the surrounding muscles and tissues and to promote drainage prior to sinus massage.  If the resources are available, a 5 minute fascial steam is also recommended. Treatment to the sinus’s would then follow, consisting of gentle static fingertip compressions over all or just the sinus’s affected.  Compressions will relieve the feeling of congestion as well as aid in the drainage process.

To further help with the drainage process or to avoid getting ‘stuffed up’ in the first place, you may request a tissue with essential oils to be placed under the face cradle while you are lying prone during the massage.  Applying a few drops of essential oils while treating the head, neck and shoulders is also an option.  Some suggested essential oils that specifically help with sinus drainage are eucalyptus, cajuput, tea tree, thyme and peppermint.  Lavender oil may also help decrease pain and increase relaxation.

So the next time you are experiencing a sinus infection, sinusitis, or a stuffy nose during a massage, why not ask your massage therapist to end off with a sinus drainage treatment?!

By Tanya Budimlic


Rattray, Fiona., Sinusitis Pg 869-872, Clinical Massage Therapy

Alderman, J., McKee. 2017. Nasal Congestion During Massage &Acupuncture, Livestrong.com.