Massage Your Chronic Headaches Away

August 7, 2012

As if you needed a medical excuse to go out and book a massage appointment!  For those of you with chronic headaches or chronic migraines triggered by stress, poor sleep and muscle tension, massage therapy might be a treatment to relieve your pain and other symptoms. When excessive use of pain and preventative medication has been linked to overuse headaches, and discomforting side effects, holistic therapies become more enticing and are even scientifically supported.

But, with the elaborate menu of services at massage therapy facilities, it can be overwhelming choosing the right one, or even understanding what the various massage modalities involve.  Here are some therapies that could help prevent or lessen the frequency and severity of headaches and migraines:

Craniosacral Therapy
This controversial osteopathic therapy is based on the theory that the central nervous system has rhythmic pulses that can be modified to release energy blockages, improve cerebral-spinal fluid flow and relieve pain. The therapist uses gentle pressure with his/her hands to manipulate the skeleton and connective tissues with a focus on the skull and tailbone. Although it’s very relaxing, scientific support is scant.

Based on the theory that a map of areas on your feet and hands correspond with specific locations on your body, the therapist applies pressure to these areas.  This is supposed to release blockages and pain in the corresponding distressed part of the body.

Trigger Point Therapy (Neuromuscular Massage)
This therapy is directed toward painful locations of the skin and muscles commonly know as ‘knots’.  When moderate pressure is applied to certain trigger points, blood circulation is improved, and nerve compression and muscular tension is released, alleviating pain.

While maybe not as effective and delightful as the effects from a professional massage therapist, it is certainly less expensive.  Most importantly, in the throes of migraine, you may be able to help yourself in a pinch by heading into a darkened room and with your thumbs, begin to apply gentle massaging pressure along your hairline and temples to relieve pain.  As with any new therapy, check with your physician before you begin any new treatment.

A 2006 research paper, from the University of Auckland, concluded that there was preliminary evidence indicating massage therapy is a nonpharmacologic treatment for migraines.  Similarly, a 2002 study by researchers at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy found that massage of the neck and shoulder muscles resulted in few chronic tension headaches.  Both studies have been published on the National Institutes of Health PubMed website.

One thing is for certain, most massage therapy techniques will relax muscular tension, and reduce stress in people suffering with chronic headaches and chronic migraines.  While negative side effects are not common from massage therapy, some people get post-massage headaches and certain individuals may be advised against this treatment as it may worsen medical conditions or injuries.  You must get your doctors OK before heading out to find a well-qualified massage therapist who may help your pain melt away and send you off to your ‘Zen’ place!

Photo courtesy © Can Stock Photo Inc.

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