By the Sweat of the Brow

By Judith DeLany, LMT
December 21, 2010

By the Sweat of the Brow

By Judith DeLany, LMT
December 21, 2010

The stresses of daily life often show up in a very public way: posted right on our faces for all to see. In particular, "frowning furrows" in the area between the brows (vertical glabellar folds) may become a permanent fixture as time records our mimetic habits, etching our emotions into the dreaded lines and deep creases that we often associate with aging.

The booming business of botox injections confirms that many people are haunted by the face in their bathroom mirrors.

Certain habits can stress the muscles of the brow. Straining to focus (when glasses are needed or are in need of a stronger prescription) or using the brows to shade the eyes from overhead light or the sun, results in chronic corrugator superciliaris muscle shortening.

Furrows Defined

Each corrugator lies under the medial half of its respective brow, arising from the frontal bone near the superiomedial orbital rim, crossing obicularis oculi and frontalis fibers, and inserting into the skin at the middle of the brow. By co-contracting, they pull the medial edges of the brows toward each other and downward toward the nose.

The tension they produce is often accompanied by that of procerus, which applies vertical tension between the brows, resulting in horizontal nasal root creases. Together, the corrugators and procerus produce a visor-like effect of the brows to shade the eyes. Additionally, furrows form between them to offer the classic emotional expressions of anger and confusion.

A few botox injections might provide a quick remedy. But, for those who want a more natural (and more economical) approach, self-applied techniques coupled with awareness of use often can produce a visible result.

Two simple manual techniques - compression and a "miniature" myofascial release - can be applied with the index finger and thumb. This can be repeated once daily or several times a day with little to no risk, at no cost and often with outstanding results.

The techniques are simple, so empty your hands and let's take the first step in erasing those lines.

Six Steps to Erasing Frowning Furrows

  1. Grasp the medial half of one brow between the thumb and index finger of the same side hand. Compress the tissue, including the muscle lying deep to the brow with enough (firm) pressure to produce discomfort. On a 1-10 scale of discomfort, with "1" being "non-tender" and "8" being "mildly painful", we would like this to record as a 7. In other words, use enough pressure to produce moderate discomfort, but not pain. If a firm pressure is applied and no discomfort is felt, move on to step 3.

  2. Maintain continuous pressure for at least 20 seconds. Pay attention to the location of the discomfort and notice whether you feel any referred sensations into the eye, brow or nasal regions. This could include headache or other discomfort, eye pressure, a runny nose, muscular twitching, tingling, burning, itching, or moistening of the eye.

    Release pressure and move the grasp laterally (toward the ear) and repeat the technique. Continue at thumb's width intervals until the middle of the brow is reached.

  3. Repeat the procedure on the second side, noting any referred phenomena.

  4. Next, grasp each side with its respective thumb/finger and apply pincer compression simultaneously to both sides. Maintain compression and slightly stretch the tissues between the brows for about 20 seconds, during which time you will likely feel the tension and the discomfort begin to fade away. As the area "melts", continue applying compression while you pull the medial aspect of the brows laterally and away from midline. Apply a continuous light-force traction (like pulling firm taffy without breaking it) as you stretch the fascia and muscles of the mid-brow.

  5. Once the contracting elements are relaxed, a "miniature" myofascial release can augment the changes and iron out the creases. Place a thumb on the middle half of each respective brow and press firmly against the underlying bone. Stretch the tissues away from midline as you maintain pressure against the bone. Continue to apply a steady tension for 90-120 seconds. Slowly release the tissues.

  6. Repeat daily (1-3 times) until visible changes are apparent, which may even be noticed immediately.

Final Note

Pay attention to everyday habits, like squinting, and work to reduce them. Wear a visor, when needed, to shade overhead light. Notice if emotions, like anger, or states of high concentration are repetitively creating strain in this area. The first step is to notice the habits and, then, you can take actions to reduce them.