Throughout my time as a massage therapist, I have had many experiences with clients who experience migraines and tension headaches. Usually, these patients turn to some form of medication for pain control. A remedy that many find effective, but not so many seek out, is massage. Massage is beneficial for these clients because they help to relieve muscle spasms causing pain, improve blood flow and circulation, and relieve tension by promoting relaxation. For many of my clients suffering from migraines and chronic headaches, I have found that a routine of deep tissue work and trigger point release works best between attacks. Due to the pain and sensitivity during an attack, it would be inadvisable to do manual therapy work during this time.
Here are a few reasons why massage therapy can help with migraines and chronic headaches:
Muscle Spasms and Tension: By massaging the neck and shoulder regions, the hypertensive, or tight, tissues can be loosened so that they decrease their pull on the head and shoulders. The sub-occipitals are small muscles along the bottom ridge of your skull. Since they must support the weight of your head, they are often tight and can limit blood flow to the brain, creating headaches. Gentle traction and massage of the subocciptals is a great way to release this pressure. By gently providing soothing strokes to areas of tension, massage can increase blood flow and improve oxygen levels to help reduce pain.
Hormone Regulation: Hormonal changes can be responsible for triggering migraine headaches. The stress hormone, cortisol, can be controlled by massage therapy and the relaxation response. Massage therapy also aids in increasing endorphin production by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.
Decreasing Trigger Points: Throughout the body, various trigger points can be found that release a pain response to other areas of the body when in spasm. These hyper-irritable tissues become tender and refer pain to other points in the body. Trigger points along the trapezius, levator scapula (responsible for lifting your shoulders), and scalenes (neck muscles) can cause pain through the tension that travels up through the back of the head and into the eye areas. By holding a steady pressure on these areas, a massage therapist can stop the spasm of these trigger points to provide relief.
If you decide to seek out massage therapy, it is important to remember that it should never take you beyond your comfort levels. If you feel yourself tensing up during a massage, the effect is likely to be counter-productive, especially for migraine and headache sufferers. Don’t be afraid to ask the therapist to ease up to reduce pressure. If you would like to book an appointment for chronic headache or migraine relief, please contact Stephanie from Blitz Body and Mind Massage at 866-3261.