How Is Massage Therapy Used to Treat Headaches?

The most common type of headache, known as tension headaches, used to be called muscle contraction headaches. Stress, mental conflict and emotional upheaval generally trigger the pain of tension headaches and cause the muscles in the face, neck, jaw and scalp to contract or tighten. These headaches can also be caused by:

  • Jaw clenching
  • Missed meals
  • Depression
  • Working too long or too intensely
  • Too little sleep

The pain is usually mild to moderate and is felt on both sides of the head. Almost everyone has felt tension-type headaches, but patients with the worst cases of recurring headaches respond extremely well to massage therapy.

What Is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy is a method of physically manipulating the body with the goal of relaxing the underlying muscles. Some massage therapy techniques used are:

  • Kneading
  • Stroking
  • Rubbing
  • Pressing
  • Tapping

These movements are all used to manipulate the soft tissues of the body: muscles, ligaments, skin and connective tissue. These movements are done using varying degrees of pressure.

Massage therapy programs are considered part of a complete treatment plan and are usually used in complement with medication and other types of therapy.

Benefits of Massage Therapy

Numerous studies have demonstrated that massage can reduce stress and muscle tension, relieve pain, help get rid of emotional tension and improve circulation throughout your body. If you suffer from tension headaches, the benefits are even more satisfactory. This therapy can reduce the intensity, duration and frequency of your headaches, as well as the strength of the pain itself. Reducing the symptoms of your headaches can have another desired effect: a reduction in your need for medication to deal with the pain.

For some migraine sufferers, head massage can reduce the length and frequency of the attacks, as well as lower the pain level during many migraines.


How Massage Therapy Works

By manipulating the muscles and other soft tissues in the body, the massage therapist can relieve tension and muscle spasms in the neck, back and shoulders. This reduction in tension relieves pressure on blood vessels and nerves.

The act of massage increases blood circulation, which reduces or relieves pain in migraines and other types of headache.

Massage helps the body increase its serotonin level, which has been known to relieve migraines.

This type of therapy also helps reduce the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, and at the same time it encourages the production of endorphins, hormones which relieve pain and cause pleasure.

Finally, massage reduces stress and anxiety that can cause headaches and make them worse.

Types of Massage Therapy Techniques

There are many types of massage therapy. The right one for you depends on the type of headache you have and its base causes.

For pain associated with the muscles and bones of the back, neck and shoulders, massage will focus on the cervical spine.

Shiatsu is a Japanese type of massage during which the therapist uses fingers, thumbs and palms to apply pressure to acupuncture points on the body.

The Trager Approach uses massage to stretch joints and muscles with an aim of promoting relaxation.

Trigger point therapy is usually used for tension headaches. It consists of applying pressure to specific points on muscles, which interrupts the nerve signals causing the headache pain.

Adkins Headache Center Massage Therapy Services

We encourage all our patients to deal with their pain in healthy, nondestructive ways. This is the aim of our multifaceted approach to treating chronic headaches. Proven massage techniques will enhance relaxation and speed pain relief.

We can provide additional massage therapy resources and information for our patients to stay well-informed on this subject. It can help you, along with your doctor, decide what treatment is best for you.

We don’t have a massage therapist on staff at this time, but we plan to have one in the near future. In the meantime, we can refer you to one of our well-respected colleagues who will take care of all your massage therapy needs.

Massage Therapy