I have been a massage therapist for almost 17 years and people wanting massage therapy to relieve headache pain is a common request I get in my massage practice.
There are many reasons why a person may be experiencing a headache and not all can be helped by massage. However massage can be quite beneficial for headaches in general.
The head itself weighs 10 to 15 lbs and that weight can put a good amount of pressure on the head, neck and shoulders throughout the day especially if we aren't using correct posture which can cause tension headaches.
The many reasons that can cause headaches:
- Tense, tight neck muscles resulting in pain in head and forehead
- Shoulder muscles that are tight and tense that pull on the neck
- Tense tight upper back muscles that pull on the neck which can result in headaches
- Lower back muscle tightness. It's all connected and sometimes a tight lower back affects the head
- Jaw muscle tension as some people grind their teeth in their sleep or tense their jaw when stressed or angry.
- Chronic stress that causes someone to hold that stress in their neck and shoulders which can cause headaches
- Weak neck and shoulder muscles that cause pain referral into the neck causing headaches
- Lack of proper ergonomic posture, like forward head posture or shoulders rolled forward that pull on the neck and cause it strain thus sometimes resulting in headaches.
- Allergies, either dietary or environmental. Headaches can be a symptom of allergies
- Dietary toxicity or detoxing from toxicity
Headache massage can help many of the reasons why someone is experiencing a headache. Not all of the reasons though, because a person's diet or posture and/or strength training for stronger muscles tend to be out of a massage therapists scope of practice, although some of us are trained in helping these areas.
But massage can for sure help with other headache reasons like tight muscles.
Massage can help with these reasons for headaches:
- Relief for tight jaw muscles
- Relief for tight neck muscles
- Relief of tight shoulder muscles
- Tight upper back muscles
- Tight lower back muscles
- Massage is great overall stress reliever because it can activate the relaxation response in the body which can help decrease stress in a person's life and thus relieve the pain of headaches.
Type Of Massage Therapy For Headaches?
So types of massage for headaches can be a case by case basis. Sometimes deep tissue massage works at relieving tight muscles that are causing headaches. Sometimes it might be myofascial release massage that is needed. Trigger point therapy may work well for one person while other times might cause headaches to increase. At times even gentle relaxing massage can help relieve headaches for people that are more sensitive and just need their parasympathetic "rest and digest" nervous system re-set to relaxation.
Headaches can sometimes go away with one massage, however sometimes it does take more than one massage, depending on what is going on.
If the cause of headaches is stress related, dietary, environmental or posture related then a person may need to practice some self care at home to help relieve the headaches.
Massage can be a great benefit to people having headaches and sometimes patience is required because it might not be so simple as tight muscles.