With COVID-19 still very much a thing, seasonal allergies in full swing, and other respiratory viruses raging across the country, a lot of people are dealing with illnesses right now. Congestion is arguably one of the more frustrating, uncomfortable symptoms of fighting off a viral infection (or something more routine, such as allergies).
If you’re dealing with a stuffy nose right now, you may be looking for solutions in unexpected places, such as TikTok. The app is actually home to many videos touting hacks for getting rid of a stuffy nose quickly. One clip in particular from creator James Moore, a licensed massage therapist, has gained traction among users.
The video includes a seemingly simple hack for alleviating sinus pressure demonstrated by Moore on himself. He applies pressure to specific areas on the face, apparently unblocking his nasal airway within seconds. It’s no wonder why the clip has more than 600,000 views to date, but does it really work? Read on to find out.
What is the stuffy nose hack?
Moore’s trending hack on the platform promises to unblock a stuffy nose in just 15 seconds without supplies, equipment, or medication. All it takes is a facial massage technique.
ICYDK, nasal congestion happens when the nasal tissue lining becomes swollen due to inflamed blood vessels, according to Mount Sinai. This can cause nasal discharge (aka a runny rose). It can also cause postnasal drip, which happens when excess mucus runs down the back of the throat, leading to a cough or sore throat.
You might be able to alleviate some of the pressure caused by the swelling, according to Moore. Here’s how it goes in the popular clip: Using your right hand, place two fingers on the left side of your nose and press it to the right. With your thumb on your left hand, press the area of your cheek to the left of your nose in and up. Hold this position for 15 seconds and breathe deeply to unblock your stuffy nose, and repeat on the other side if needed.
Does the hack for unblocking a stuffy nose work?
The comments section of Moore’s post is filled with notes from people who’ve tried the hack and say it works. There are a few reasons why, according to the massage therapist.
“This technique uses self-massage pressure to relieve sinus pressure,” Moore, who learned the hack during massage school, tells Shape. “When [you] have sinus pressure and pain, the sinuses and muscles just next to the nose can become tender and tight. By moving the nose over, and then massaging these spots, it brings more blood flow and circulation to the face,” he explains. “This allows the muscles/sinuses to release, which promotes the sinuses to drain out mucus.”
The proof is in the results, according to Moore. But is this stuffy nose hack physician-approved for effectiveness?
“[This method] seems to be using the principles of sinus acupressure, which is not something [proven] by the medical literature,” says Nicole Aaronson, M.D., a board-certified otolaryngologist (aka ear, nose, and throat doctor). However, sinus acupressure has not been disproven either, she notes.
“The infraorbital nerve runs right in that area on the cheek where pressure is being applied,” says Dr. Aaronson. “Stimulating this nerve with pressure might cause some change in sensation in the parts of the nose supplied by that nerve. This may be the reason for the temporary relief.”
Is the stuffy nose hack safe?
The hack seems safe, as long as you’re not applying too much pressure when performing it, according to Dr. Aaronson. However, you’ll want to get to the bottom of what’s causing a stuffy nose rather than simply alleviating the symptom temporarily.
“It’s helpful to figure out the underlying cause for the congestion in order to know what treatment is best,” says Dr. Aaronson. For instance, if your stuffy nose is due to seasonal allergies, oral allergy medication might be a good treatment option, she suggests. Alternatively, if you have non-allergic rhinitis — meaning you’re congested, sneezing, and have a dripping nose without allergies — a nasal spray might be a better option, adds Dr. Aaronson.
“Another thing that I find very helpful when there is a lot of mucus production (such as during a cold or when indoor allergens can’t be avoided), are nasal saline rinses,” she says. “Whatever the underlying cause, hydration is key to helping keep mucus as thin as possible.”
You can unblock a stuffy nose with sinus acupressure: True or false?
Hard evidence of its effectiveness may be lacking, but if you want to try this hack at home, there doesn’t appear to be any reason not to give it go if you’re in a pinch. However, the best way to find relief for nasal congestion is to get to the root cause of the issue and decide a treatment plan with a doctor from there.