Does Massage Help for Headaches and Migraines?


     Who has not had a headache or migraine?  Most people are affected by one or the other at some point in their life. What comes first, the headache/migraine or the neck and shoulder pain?  Typical chicken or the egg scenario.

​     Headaches can last a few hours, migraines last a few days.  All interrupt activities of daily living and are a pain to deal with, pardon the pun.  Massage therapy relaxes muscle tension in the upper back and neck, which improves blood flow and aids in overall relaxation.

Types of headaches:

​Muscle tension and vascular headaches, in which the muscles of the head, neck and face tighten and the blood vessels dilate or contract to cause pain. Tension headache sufferers describe their pain as a vice like grip at the temples or a tightening band around their forehead or back of the skull.

​Vascular headaches occur when the blood vessels that supply the muscles of the head and brain contract and are typically described as pounding or throbbing. The pain intensifies with physical activity and may be accompanied with symptoms of visual problems, light sensitivity and nausea. Migraines, cluster headaches and those that result from high blood pressure are examples of vascular headaches.

​Headaches also occur with complex chemical changes in the brain associasted with neurochemical levels that serve as neurotransmitters such as serotonin and endorphins. The change in neurochemical levels can activate pain pathways to the brain and interfere wtih the brain's capacity to suppress pain. These chemical changes can cause or be caused by muscle tension in the shoulders, neck and scalp.

​     Good news, massage therapy by relaxing muscle tension in the upper back, shoulders and neck assists in relieving all types of headaches. When muscle tension eases, the pressure on the blood vessels and nerves is reduced allowing oxygen rich blood to circulate more freely which in turn assist in relieving pain and balancing the chemical flow. Along with the pysiological effects, massage is effective in reducing anxiety and mental stress which cause or exacerbate headaches.  Regular massage can help to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches and assist in maintaining balance.

​     A study on the effectiveness of massage therapy for migraines was done at the University of Miami School of Medicine.  Two groups of migraine sufferers were used, in the first group participants took their medication and received no massage, in the second group, weekly massage was added to their medication. Those receiving massage suffered no migraines and their sleep and serotonin levels improved. Deep tissue massage between migraine attacks seemed to have the most favourable outcomes. (Deep tissue work during a migraine may exacerbate the pain.)

​     Massage relieves muscle tension and spasms in the shoulders, neck and head. It regulates stress hormones such as Cortisal, increases endorphin production and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (think rest/digest). It also decreases Trigger Points in the shoulders and neck which can refer pain to the head, temples and eyes.  Massage effectively enhances circulation improving oxygen levels and thereby reducing pain.

     Regular massage therapy is your partner for pain relief. At Medi-Massage our skilled RMT's are experts in assisting you with your headache or migraine related pain and providing you with relaxation and relief.



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