Anyone that has ever had a migraine can tell you how debilitating it can be. Pain, nausea, diarrhea and extreme sensitivity to light and sound can occur and last for many days. Migraine headaches may occur when there are changes in the brainstem and it’s interactions with the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is a major pain pathway that helps regulate pain and pain responses in the nervous system. Corresponding imbalances in brain chemicals, especially serotonin, are involved. Serotonin levels have been shown to drop during migraine attacks and this can actually trigger the trigeminal system to release neuropeptides resulting in headache and migraine pain.
Migraines are often triggered by stress and lack of sleep. Medications frequently prescribed to prevent migraines, such as pain relievers, when used heavily over a period of time can actually produce another type of headache known as medication overuse headache that is more difficult to treat than migraines.
Massage therapy has been shown to improve many of the ailments associated with migraine and tension headaches. Several studies from the Touch Research Institute show that people who receive regular massage care report reduced migraine symptoms, increased sleep quality and increases in serotonin levels.
Massage therapy also improves many other migraine related ailments, such as pain and poor circulation. Studies from the Touch Research Institute indicate that people who receive regular massage have reduced migraine symptoms, increased sleep quality, increased serotonin levels and fewer occurrences of migraines. There are several different massage therapies that are effective in reducing migraine symptoms including Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue Massage and Neuromuscular Therapy.
Trigger points, in even the smallest muscles, can lead to a tension headache or become the onset of a migraine. Severe headaches can be caused by trigger points in the trapezius, pectoralis and rhomboid muscles. Massage therapy helps relax these muscles, thereby taking the pressure off the underlying nerves and pain receptors. Regular massage therapy helps to relieve spasms and tightness that causes pain and helps to stimulate the release of the natural pain killers found in the body called endorphins.
Massage has been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce stress. This action can reduce the number and severity of a person’s migraines. In an article published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, a study was conducted with twenty-six migraine headache sufferers. One group was the control group and another received two – thirty minute massages per week for five consecutive weeks. The massage therapy subjects reported fewer distress symptoms, less pain, more headache free days, fewer sleep disturbances, and they showed an increase in serotonin levels.
Hernandez-Reif, M., Dieter J., Field, T., Swerdlow, B., & Diego, M. (1998). Migraine headaches are reduced by massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 96, 1-11.
Davies, Clair, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, 2nd edition, 2004, New Harbinger Publications