Q and A about pressure sensation and meditation
Q: I have been having pain and pressure in my forehead and face. I’ve been doing intensive concentration meditations, and know this to be the cause. I went to an accupuncturist with no result. What is your advice?
A: There is a saying in medicine, “when you hear hoof beats looks for horses and not zebras”.
How do you know the facial pressure is from the concentration exercises? Alternative medicine is still a logical, analytic process. Just because two things happen at the same time does not mean one caused the other.
Do you have any allergies? Have you had any colds or flu recently? Facial or nasal injuries in the past? Who is your meditation teacher? How long have you been doing the “concentration exercises”? How long has the pressure been there? Is there anything other than the exercises that makes the discomfort better or worse? There is much to be considered…that’s why my first recommendation is always to get an in-person evaluation. If you aren’t happy with the accupuncture results, you might want to try an homeopathic evaluation, or an herbalist. Those are both too detailed to do online here.
Mainstream medicine isn’t the enemy, either. It is one tool in the healing tool kit, just as all of the alternative methods are. You really can have the best of both worlds. You may want to try to find a MD or DO (doctors of osteopathy are trained in a more holistic manner and typically are more open to natural / alternative techniques). It isn’t impossible, even here on the East Coast, to find a doctor that is knowledgeable about alternative practices and willing to work with them.
You know about sinuses, right? They are air spaces in the bones just behind the eyebrows and to either side of the nose. They normally function to warm and moisturize the air we breath in, while the cilia (little hairs) on the mucous membranes help clean the air. If there is infection or allergies, that normal system becomes overwhelmed and overactive… all the extra mucus and inflammation can cause pain and pressure. On one hand, you may be going through a physical ‘detox’ of sorts because of your meditation practices which has overwhelmed the sinuses. On the other hand, you might have just picked up a low grade, generic, garden variety sinus infection. A doctor can help you sort that out.
From the mainstream part of our healing toolkit…as long as you don’t have high blood pressure or any other chronic medical problem that contraindicates its use, there is a mild decongestant you can buy over the counter…pseudoephedrine (brand name Sudafed) It is based on the active ingredient of the ephedra plant, which is the “ma huang” herb from traditional Chinese medicine. Follow package instructions carefully, and if that doesn’t help, it may be worth while to find a doctor to take a look…it might be something as simple as a short run of a mild antibiotic to give your body the head-start it needs to get your sinuses back on track. Also that would rule out any less common “zebra” problems…deviated septum, nasal polyps or what have you.
From the alternative side:
Aromatherapy: Peppermint is soothing for headache. Both peppermint eucalyptus globulas aromatherapy oils are decongestant (pressure relieving if that is the cause of your discomfort) Moisture would help soothe the mucus membranes as well, so putting a few drops of oil on a pan of hot water and inhaling the scented vapor through your nose may help.
Ayervedic Medicine: Regular maintenance with a neti pot and salt water – 1/2 teaspoon salt per cup (8 oz) of water – can help keep the sinuses clear and in good working order… if congestion is the pressure problem, that is. Ayervedic doctors and even some yoga instructors can help you learn to use a neti pot if you have trouble with it just using the package instructions. Neti pots are widely available in drugstores and health food stores.
Energy / Spiritual: Who is guiding your meditation? Ask them, they may know what is going wrong. Meditation should never cause pain or lead to ongoing problems! If you are working on your own…get a teacher!
Except for maybe, maybe, some fairly uncommon marital arts practices, “Intensive concentration” is not part of meditation. “Concentration” is very mind, very ego, very “yang”. The whole point of meditation is to remove mind and ego, to observe but detach from thoughts. Meditation is “yin”. This problem may be a big message for to you to reconsider your meditation path.
If you are already working with a meditation teacher they may also know some accupressure routines (where you massage chi points with the tip of your fingers) that you can use on your own more frequently than going to see the accupuncturist. ALL natural healing takes time, so you may also want to consider giving the accupuncture & traditional chinese medicine more time. You didn’t mention the time-frame of all of this in your message at all.
Dietary: Avoid dairy for a few weeks. It increases mucus production. Drink tea and water, avoid sodas, get plenty of sleep and proper exercise…you know, the basics.
What may be going on is a blockage or imbalance of the sixth and / or seventh chakras. If that is the case, changing your meditation, perhaps some Reiki treatments, and wearing gemstone attuned to those chakras (like lapis for the third eye and amethyst for the crown chakra) might help get things back on track.
I hope this gives you a few ideas to work with, although I’m sure you know already that internet information can NOT take the place of an in-person evaluation – mainstream or alternative either one. NONE of the information here is intended to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease, and can not take the place of professional medical care.
With your permission, I would like to share a redacted, private version of your question with my blog readers. A lot of people don’t realize that some forms of mediation or chi gong can lead to problems if done improperly and that it is necessary to work with a skilled advisor when working with the more intensive forms of energy work and meditation.