Massage Therapy for Headaches and Migraines

Headaches are a problem that will afflict most of us, sooner or later. As we go about our daily lives we often find that the pain we feel will diminish on its own or perhaps with just one or two doses of an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen or ASA. However, if you should find your need for pain relievers becoming regular, you may have an issue best resolved with help from a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT).
Specializing in the treatment of a variety of soft tissues, RMTs can help relieve pain – whether it’s in the ligaments of the cervical spine, or in the fine muscles at the base of the skull or even in your jaw muscles, for example. The significance is that all these tissues – and many more – are capable of generating what we commonly recognize as a “tension headache”.
Massage therapy is very effective in reducing the trigger points (knots) in the muscles that are involved with headaches and migraines. Tension builds in our bodies every day due to stress; positions we put ourselves into when we work, sleep and perform everyday activities; from old injuries/accidents and falls. This tension causes the muscles to shorten and build up these knots. Massage on these areas can aid in resolving the knots.  After a massage the joints of the spine often need to be addressed as well to restore the alignment to the vertebrae that are pinching the nerves which cause the headaches/migraines.

Research About the Effects of Massage Therapy on Headaches and Migraines

Very positive findings can be said about the effectiveness of massage therapy for headaches and migraines. In one study, the massage therapy group (30 minute treatment, 2x/week for 5 weeks, focusing on the neck musculature) had statistically significant improvement in pain (71% reduction) compared to the control group (no treatment).
Another study from New Zealand was conducted over 13 weeks – a 4 week baseline period, 6 weeks of treatment and 3 weeks of follow-up. Migraine frequency was reduced in the massage group (45 minute treatment, 1x/week for 6 weeks, focusing on neuromuscular and trigger point areas of the back, neck and shoulders) after treatment (by 34%) and at follow-up (by 30%) compared to the control group (kept a headache diary – values were 7% and 2% respectively). Interestingly, intensity of migraine attacks remained unchanged in both groups and sleep quality was improved in the massage group. Massage participants exhibited greater improvements in migraine frequency and sleep quality during the intervention weeks and the 3 follow-up weeks. During sessions, massage induced decreases in anxiety, heart rate, and cortisol.
Another type of massage that can help with headaches and migraines is called Active Release Technique (ART). Follow this link to learn more about ART and how it helps!
If you experience headaches and migraines, book with one of our Registered Massage Therapists today!