A piece of advice for how to deal with tinnitus has been widely shared on Twitter and Reddit over the past few days, with many claiming that it helped them (temporarily, at least) make the ringing noise go away.
"Put your palms on your ears and thump the soft spot in the back of your head with your fingers," the original post reads. "Should resonate and feel like your head is the inside of a drum. 15-30 seconds. Makes tinnitus go away for a while for most people. Sometimes mine goes away for the rest of the day."
The post appears to be a garbled version of an earlier tip posted by Dr Jan Strydom.
“Place the palms of your hands over your ears with fingers resting gently on the back of your head. Your middle fingers should point toward one another just above the base of your skull. Place your index fingers on top of you middle fingers and snap them (the index fingers) onto the skull making a loud, drumming noise," Strydom writes.
"Repeat 40-50 times. Some people experience immediate relief with this method. Repeat several times a day for as long as necessary to reduce tinnitus.”
While there are plenty of people claiming that the trick helped them, does it actually work and is there science behind it?
First up, tinnitus is a symptom, not a specific condition, with multiple other conditions that could contribute to it. Your first step, should you experience persistent ringing, whooshing, throbbing or humming that bothers you or is getting worse, is to see a medical professional. Particularly if it beats in time with your pulse. Because of the varied causes of tinnitus, the same treatment is also unlikely to work on everyone.
Some patients with disorders of the jaw muscles often also have tinnitus, as well as muscular tension in the jaw and neck. For this, studies have shown, reducing tension of the jaw and neck has helped alleviate tinnitus. As well as this, stretching areas of the suboccipital muscles at the back of the head – in the rough area described in the post above – has benefited patents.
"Such treatment of muscle tension in the jaw and neck can reduce tension-related symptoms such as tinnitus, vertigo, aural fullness and pain in the jaw, neck or headache," a team wrote in a review of the literature in 2011. "Indeed, the intensity of all such symptoms was significantly reduced after a three-year follow-up examination for patients who used this type of treatment."
Dental blog TruDenta speculates that the advice shared by Strydom (and later, in shortened form, the Internet) may work on some because "you are causing the suboccipital muscles to relax and reduce tension".
Tapping a muscle quickly can cause it to contract. However, "continual tapping or constant pressure provides the opposite effect: they overload the muscle, causing it to burn up all of it’s electrolytes and ATP and other resources it needs to activate and contract on a regular basis," they add. "When muscle cells become energy depleted, they turn off and once enough cells turn off, the muscle as a whole relaxes and you feel instant pain relief."
In short, the trick might work for you (if it is tinnitus associated with muscular tension) but relief might be brief, and you should (as always) consult with a medical professional first if you are concerned about your tinnitus.
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