How Does Massage Therapy Alleviate Headaches?

Tips and Tricks of Massage Therapy
By: Julie Keating

As anyone who has chronic headaches knows, they can really put a dent in your daily routine and can lead to a reduced quality of life. Some medications targeting headaches can work, but when you take medications, there are always side effects. So if there was a natural cure, who wouldn’t try it? Research suggests that massage therapy may be very helpful for people who get headaches frequently, so why not give it a try?

What the Science Demonstrates

The American Massage Therapy Association endorses the use of massage therapy for targeting headaches over traditional medicines and therapies. What the science indicates is that: 

Massage Therapy May Help to Reduce Migraine Pain

A blind study conducted on people in the US who experience migraines separated participants into two groups. One group got massage therapy, while the others did not. The group who got the message received massage therapy twice over five weeks. Participants in the experimental group reported:

  • Less migraine pain
  • More headache-free days
  • Fewer problems sleeping at night
  • Higher levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone

Massage Therapy May Reduce Migraine Frequency and Enhance Sleep Quality

A study in New Zealand that spanned over 13 weeks divided 50 participants into two groups: the control group and the massage group. Both of the groups filled out a questionnaire about their habits and overall health. The massage group received massages weekly for weeks five to ten. The benefits of the study were significant. During the last three weeks, the massage group reported:

  • Fewer headaches
  • A decrease in anxiety, cortisol, and heart rate
  • Better coping skills and stress management
  • Overall improved quality of sleep

Massage Therapy May Work to Prevent Migraines

People with chronic migraines often take medications that can help relieve the pain they cause. When those same people also used preventative nontraditional therapies like physiotherapy, massage therapy, and spinal manipulation, they appeared to have a great response to the efficacy of migraine medicines. For those who are using migraine and headache medicines, engaging in regular massage appears to have an enhanced response efficacy to medication. 

How Massage Works to Decrease Headaches

Both migraines and tension headaches can be greatly helped by massage therapy. It not only helps to alleviate headaches but can also, in some instances, help reduce and prevent their frequency. The ways that it helps are:

Increasing circulation – When you increase blood flow, it can help to decrease pain.

Decreasing Trigger Points – Trigger points often don’t hurt right where they are, but they do cause referred pain and can lead to spasms and muscular tension. By decreasing trigger points, you can alleviate the tension that can lead to tension headaches.

Reducing muscle tension and spasms – Many headaches are caused by tension and stress. Massage is a great way to ease muscles and reduce tension in them. It can also help to stop the muscle spasms that lead to headaches. And when you alleviate feelings of stress, it can often have a calming effect on your mind.

The Science Says It All

Many who have headaches have a hard time finding relief from traditional medicines, and even if they find mild relief, the medicine usually isn’t enough to make headaches disappear entirely. If you are a headache or migraine sufferer, you know how disruptive headaches can be. Massage offers a way to get some relief with or without medicine, so why not give it a try? Contact us to schedule your appointment today!