Massage and Migraines / Headaches
Although headaches can range from slightly irritating right up to headaches that feel as though your skull was bursting open, they all have one thing in common – we want them to go away as quickly as possible and stay away. When you get a headache, it’s not the brain itself that hurts; it will be the structures surrounding the brain that are actually the source of pain. Headaches are considered to fall into two basic categories – primary and secondary headaches.
- Primary headaches are those that do not have another condition causing them. Primary headaches include migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.
- Secondary headaches are headaches that are caused by another condition, which can include suffering from a hangover right up to very serious problems such as badly infected teeth or a brain tumor.
The fact that headaches can be caused by serious medical conditions means that a visit to your physician is the first step when you’re seeking treatment. Once you’ve been checked out and have been given the go-ahead, it’s time to get some meaningful massage treatment.
Primary headaches are the ones that will respond best to massage therapy, and they generally fall into three categories:
- Migraine headaches are the most severe of the primary headaches and can cause excruciating pain that can last for days. Very often the sufferer will experience nausea and sensitivity to light. Some migraines are so bad that it is almost impossible to move. Lesser symptoms, such as digestive problems and irritability often signal that a migraine is approaching several days before the headache occurs. These headaches will usually occur either on one side of the head or will cover the entire head.
- Cluster headaches provide no warning, but descend suddenly and often when you are asleep. The pain of cluster headaches is concentrated behind one eye, although it is possible to experience pain in both. The affected eye will often turn red and the face around the eye will swell. Cluster headaches don’t last as long as migraines, they are generally over within hours, at most, and will depart as abruptly as they began.
- Tension headaches produce less pain than migraines or cluster headaches, but even ‘mild’ or ‘moderate’ headaches can make you miserable. This type of headache feels as if there were a tightening band around the head, and can last for half an hour or a day or two. Those who experience 15 or more of these headaches a month are considered to be suffering from chronic tension headaches. Tight muscles and stress are the cause of most tension headaches.
How Massage Can Help
There is no more natural and safe way to deal with migraine or other headaches than by using massage therapy, especially on a regular basis. Your massage therapist has been trained in techniques that will help to provide relief from headaches, help to prevent them in the future, and benefit your overall health.
Tension headaches are often triggered by stress. As worries and daily problems accumulate, muscles in the neck and head will become tighter and tighter, pinching nerves and causing a tension headache. Massage therapy can help to loosen the tightened muscles and improve the flow of blood to the head, helping to alleviate the pain. Massage also helps to release endorphins which not only will control pain, but will also help you feel more relaxed and optimistic.
Massage has been shown to have value when dealing with migraine headaches. The use of deep tissue massage in the intervals between attacks on the upper back, neck, and back of the head has been found to reduce or eliminate migraine headaches, especially when used in conjunction with the usual medication. For those who arrive at the massage therapist already suffering a migraine, light massage on the head and neck, and massage on the hands and feet brings a noticeable measure of relief.
The techniques used for migraine headaches also work very well for cluster headaches. Those who have made massage a part of their lifestyle suffer fewer cluster headaches and are able to sleep better at night as a result.