These types of headaches are still somewhat mysterious.
They are believed to be caused by neck alignment, chemical/hormonal changes, neurological problems, vascular problems, environmental irritants, food sensitivities, and/or blood sugar regulation.
Migraines can be very severe and can last up to several days.
These headaches do usually come with some sensitivities, such as sensitivity to light, sound, and nausea/vomiting.
Both tension headaches and migraines have been effectively treated by massage therapy.
Not only can massage help relieve headache pain, but it can also help to prevent headaches from occurring. Massage is helpful for many reasons:
Massage promotes circulation:
Massage can increase blood flow in areas that might be ischemic (lacking blood flow) and therefore help relieve pain.
Massage decreases pain from Trigger Points:
Trigger Points are areas of hyper-irritable tissue that are very tender and also can refer pain to other areas of the body.
Trigger Point Therapy or Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) can help decrease the pain and referrals into the neck and head.
Massage relieves muscle spasms/tension:
Massage can help loosen chronically tight muscles and taught bands of tissue.
This helps with muscle balance and neck alignment.
Also, loosening the muscles that attach to the base of the skull (sub-occipitals) can relieve the tension headaches that travel up the back of the head and into the eye and the ‘vice-like’ constricting headaches so many people suffer from.
Massage helps regulate certain hormones:
Massage therapy has shown to decrease levels of the stress hormone Cortisol.
Massage therapy also increases endorphins and stimulates the Para-Sympathetic Nervous system, therefore promoting relaxation.
Because of this hormone effect, massage therapy can improve the quality of your sleep.
It is a happy little cycle: decrease stress = better sleep = fewer headaches = decrease stress =……and so on and so forth.
Migraines: The research is unclear exactly why massage therapy helps those who suffer migraine headaches. However, in multiple studies, massage therapy was shown to decrease the frequency and the duration of migraines.
One of the most exciting things about this research is that there is finally a non-pharmocological treatment for headaches.
Massage therapy can be a treatment that is safe and effective–not just a cover up.