Though a common condition, affecting around one in every five women and one in every 15 men, a migraine can be a debilitating experience and can last up to several weeks leaving many people unable to face even the simplest of tasks. Some people are prone to migraines. A migraine can be a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one of side of the head. Many sufferers also have symptoms including nausea, vomiting and intensified sensitivity of light and sound. The three main types of migraine are:
- Migraine with aura: the person experiences specific warning signs before the migraine develops, such as sensitivity to flashing lights
- Migraine without aura: the most common type of migraine, the pain will develop without the onset of other symptoms
- Migraine aura without headache: migraine symptoms are experienced without a headache (often known as the silent headache)
Painkillers, triptans and anti-medics are given to migraine victims to help ease the pain and prevent the headaches from happening, but the frequent discomfort can lead sufferers looking for other treatments of relieving the often-excruciating symptoms.
Some people find sleeping and remaining in a dark room can relieve the symptoms, but the everyday busyness of day to day life can prevent this from happening. Therefore, many seek massage as a form of relief therapy.
Massage can temporarily relieve migraine pain by releasing the Serotonin chemical, which blocks pain signals sent to the brain. It is believed that Serotonin and migraines are related. Other reasons massage therapy may help include:
- Muscle Spasms or Tension: massaging in the neck and shoulder can help to relax adhesions and loses up muscles attached to the base of the skull – which often cause pain through tension that travels through the back of the head and into the eye
- Hormone Regulation: changes in hormonal chemical changes can often cause migraines. The stress hormone, Cortisol, can be controlled by massage therapy
- Improved Circulation: massage can increase blood flow which increases the oxygen levels circulating around the body, ultimately relieving pain
Styles of massage offered to people with migraines
The first step when soothing a migraine is to make the sufferer feel relaxed, this can be achieved by aromatherapy. Depending on the migraine trigger, the therapist will choose a blend of different oils for the person to inhale, allowing them to feel at ease and calm. If the trigger is stress, the therapist may use clary sage, spikenard and lavender. The therapist does take note of what the person finds most appealing and will ensure frequent use of this oil, throughout the session.
Cold stone massage
In another attempt to reduce the blood flow to the head and brain, therapists often perform cold stone massage. Therapists apply marble, cool stones to areas of the face and neck. This helps relax the migraine sufferer by calming the brain and soothing the pounding sensation felt when experiencing the headache – relief starts in a short amount of time. Those who undertake cold stone massage as a regular treatment for migraines will feel more relaxed throughout the day and see and improvement in their quality of sleep – essential when enduring pain and discomfort of the condition, were sleep and daily activities can be affected.
Trigger point therapy
Often referred to a neuromuscular massage, the therapy is a muscle relaxing treatment. The therapist applies moderate pressure to the trigger point (the spots in the muscle that when stimulated by pressure or touch become painful) Some believe trigger point therapy can relieve pain in tense and overworked muscles, which cause migraines to occur.
Derived from alternative massage techniques based on traditional Chinese medicine, therapists use acupressure massaging to apply light finger pressure to different points of the sufferer’s head to allow relief by calming muscle tension. By using gentle touches, many believe acupressure promotes self-healing of the body, ultimately relieving migraine symptoms and preventing them from happening in the future.
Unlike the aim of most massage for illness, therapy for migraines shouldn’t increase the blood flow to the head and neck, as this may result in accelerating the migraine pain. To ensure this doesn’t happen, cranial sacral techniques (extremely light touches and strokes) are performed. The therapists asks the person to lie down on their back as while they gently massage the skull bones and scalp. This not only keeps the blood flow steady, but gives the nerve endings a soothing sensation, which lessens the pain waves they send.
Many frequent migraine attacks are brought on by stress. The Swedish massage aims to relieve the tension which causes a migraine and prevent the onset of stress in the future. Unlike most styles for migraines, the Swedish style techniques are used on the whole body, rather than exclusively focusing on the head. Using the hands and palms, the therapist performs light stroking, kneading and vibration to increase the level of oxygen in the blood, which improves circulation and decreases the tension endured.
When to avoid massage
While massage can be used by majority of migraine sufferers, people with certain conditions should avoid the therapy as it can trigger complications. These include:
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure
- Blood clots
- Recent surgery
- Open sores or fresh wounds
Those who suffer cancer should seek approval from the doctor before undergoing massage therapy.
A survey by migraine.com found massage therapy to reduce symptoms significantly in 39 per cent of sufferers. Slightly eased symptoms were also found in 36 per cent of people who took part, while only seven per cent said massage therapy did nothing to relieve the symptoms.
According to a study from The Touch Research Institute, 26 migraine sufferers received two 30 minute massages over a five week period. The study concluded most participants had reduced pain, more headache free days and better sleep. Increased serotonin levels were also found, which blocks the pain signal to the brain.
Massage therapy promotes a better life as the stresses and tensions of migraines are weakened, allowing the sufferer to enjoy life and experience less migraines. Why don’t you visit a therapist to kickstart your massage journey today?
Want to read more about massage? why not check out our post Can Massage Ease the Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?