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For the unfortunate, headaches can be an everyday occurrence. For others, headaches may be only an infrequent source of discomfort. No matter how often a headache strikes, relief is the number one goal. Rather than treating recurring headache pain with over-the-counter medications, massage therapy may be the solution to help find long-term relief.

There are different types of headaches, and it’s helpful to know what type of headache is occurring, in order to know the best way to find relief. The most common headaches are tension headaches and migraines.

Tension headaches may be caused by muscle spasms, trigger points, neck alignment, stress, hormonal and chemical changes, dehydration, stress and anxiety. Signs of a tension headache can include tightness and pain in the head, neck, shoulders and arms and muscle spasms.  Pain can also be felt around the jaw, temple, and behind the eyes.  Tension headaches do not usually cause light and sound sensitivity or nausea.

Migraines are typically more severe than tension headaches. This type of headache can be caused by a variety of triggers including, but not limited to, neck alignment, chemical/hormonal changes, neurological or vascular problems, environmental irritants, food sensitivities, and blood sugar. Migraines can be severe, even debilitating, and can last up to several days.  Migraines usually cause sensitivity to light and sound, and can also cause nausea and vomiting.

Both types of headaches can be treated by massage therapy. Massage can relieve headache pain and help to prevent future headaches.  While medication (both OTC and prescription) is effective for temporarily treating headaches as they occur, taking a pill is only a temporary solution.

Massage therapy addresses headaches as a chronic problem and works to alleviate the triggers that are causing the headaches, providing lasting and long-term relief. Massage is able to decrease pain at trigger points in the neck and head, as well as promote circulation by massaging areas that lack proper blood flow, also helping to relieve pain. Massage is able to help regulate hormones in the body that can cause headaches. Massage has been shown to reduce the stress hormone Cortisol, while increasing endorphins, which helps clients to relax. This can promote better sleep and an ongoing state of relaxation, reducing the severity and frequency of headaches. Massage therapy can effectively relieve muscle tension and spasms by loosening tight muscle and tissue. This can help to lower the occurrence of tightness in the neck, shoulders and head felt from headaches.

Massage therapy is an effective alternative treatment for headaches that is medication-free. Massage doesn’t cover up the pain of a headache. Massage effectively targets the triggers that cause headache pain. It is important for chronic headache sufferers to first consult with a physician to rule out the need for medical treatment prior to starting massage therapy for headache pain.

©The Academy of Massage Therapy and Bodyworks
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