Every migraineur who experiences frequent attacks takes some form of medication to get some relief from pain and other accompanying symptoms. From abortive to preventive medications, over-the-counter and prescribed medications, they’re all on their go-to list whenever migraine pain sets in. They want instant and lasting relief, and most of them feel they have limited options.
A good remedy with so many health benefits, and which so many find effective, but normally many do not seek out, is gentle massage. This therapy can improve blood circulation, relieve muscle spasms, relieve tensions and promote relaxation. It helps in brining quick relief for both vascular and tension headaches.
A detailed study on the effectiveness of massage therapy was carried out by University of Miami School of medicine in 2004. Two groups of migraine sufferers were involved. In the first group, the participants took normal migraine medication but got no massage. In the second group, massage was gradually added to the medication after one week. The group that received massage experienced no migraine attacks during the course of study. In fact, participants in this group also slept better and reported increased serotonin levels.
The best massage routine that would help migrianeurs seem to be for deep tissue work in-between attacks. Because many patients find that movements increase their pain levels, and they also experience extreme sensitivity to touch, a deep tissue massage during any migraine attack is not possible. However, light food or hand massage during pain could help. Regular massaging in these areas improves blood circulation, and also helps in reducing pressure in the head, which is often a big contributory factor.
So Why Choose Massage For Easing Pain?
- Better Circulation-Massage will improve blood flow, which in turn improves oxygen levels. So this approach can instantly reduce pain.
- Better Hormone Regulation-Usually hormonal changes can trigger migraines. Cortisol ( a known stress hormone) can be controlled with a massage therapy, which also improves endorphin production and stimulates parasympathetic nervous system.
- Muscle Spasms or Tension-If you massage your shoulder and neck areas, it can help relax taught bands of tissue, thereby loosing the sub-occipitals (the muscles directly attacked to the skull base), which cause acute pain due to tension that may travel up through the back of the head and right into the eye areas.
- Decrease Trigger Point Pain-Neuromuscular therapy (also referred to as trigger point therapy), mainly targets tender, hyper-irritable tissue areas that can refer pain to various areas of the body.
Different Types of Massage
You have many options when it comes to muscular massage therapy. Though massage won’t replace your migraine medication, but you will find one or more of these therapies can help you to lead the life in a much better way with good control on your pain.
- Craniosacral Massage- This massage can soothe nerve endings and can also help alleviate your migraine headaches.
- Swedish massage-This massage is aimed at stress relief rather than physical treatment for painful conditions, so it is usually performed with less intensity than sports massage, but for a longer duration per session. In this, a light pressure is applied, and the whole body is massaged. Strangely enough, even though it’s referred to as Swedish massage, all the techniques used have French names!
- Its main technique is Effleurage (smooth, long strokes aimed at muscle relaxation), Petrissage (gentle kneading to penetrate deep into the muscle fiber), Friction (pressingly firmly onto the surface into a circular motion to achieve greater relaxation of muscles), and Tapotement (strategically placed taps along with cupped hands to complete the massage)
- Relaxation Massage – This massage can provide relaxation. It’s often performed in dim setting with scented oils and candles to ensure a total experience. A therapist may gently work on the upper muscle tissue layers to provide deep relaxation. It’s a gentle and less intense massage than other massage styles.
- Deep Tissue Massage Therapy-This massage uses deep finger pressure to apply slow strokes on specific body areas that experience body tension. A combination of pressure, movement and stretching is used to ease discomfort and improve relaxation.
- Neuromuscular Massage-This massage reduces nerve compression. The therapist targets specific spots within a muscle that are painful to touch. It’s also referred to as trigger point massage.
- Warm Stone Massage – This massage utilizes warm river stones. These stones are placed on affected areas to relax muscles by improving circulation.
- Reflexology-It works on the theory that different zones in the soles of feet correspond to different body areas. These zones are stimulated by reflexology practitioner to bring relief to head areas.
Not all types of massage will work for all migraine sufferers. For instance, deep tissue massage can worsen the migraine if pain has already started.
If you choose a massage therapy, keep it within your comfort levels. Otherwise, this approach can be counterproductive.
For some people, massage may not be of much help. Anyone with recent fracture, sprain or some nerve injury, or those with varicose veins or someone who’s undergone chemotherapy are not suitable. Pregnant women should seek advice from their doctor before undergoing massage. For most migrianeurs, it’s a good alternative, and a proven source of pain relief.