Massage and Headaches

If you suffer from headaches, you are not alone. Over 50 million of us experience some form of a severe headache at some point in our lives. Whether you experience minor head pain or severe migraines, headaches can take valuable time out of your day and your life, and leave you searching for relief.

One way to seek relief is by reaching for drugs and other medications. This may work temporarily and can help you get out of pain fast. There are other methods that you can try. Massage therapy can be an effective drug-free treatment for the relief of tension headaches.

What Causes Headaches?

There are various kinds of headaches: tension, migraine, cluster, and sinus and more.

Tension headaches (also known as muscle contraction headaches) are one of the most common types of headaches.

A tension headache may be caused many factors, a few triggers include:

  • Emotional or mental conflict
  • Contracted neck, face, scalp and jaw muscles
  • Intense work
  • Missed meals
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Too little sleep

A migraine often begins as a dull ache and then develops into a constant, throbbing pain that one may feel at the temples, as well as the front or back of one side of the head. Nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and noise usually accompanies the pain from a migraine headache.

How Can Massage Therapy Help?

If you are looking for relief from tension headaches, massage therapy helps by:

  • Reducing the frequency of chronic tension headaches
  • Reducing the duration of the headache during the massage treatment
  • Reducing depression and/or anxiety
  • Decreasing perceived pain
  • Decreasing anger status
  • Decreasing tension
  • Reducing intensity
  • Decreasing medication usage
  • Increasing cervical range of motion

What Can You Do?

Below are a few ways that you can participate in your own healing, by making simple lifestyle changes that may help alleviate, or even prevent, head pain:

Track those triggers. Try to keep track of when your headaches start. You may find it especially helpful to keep a diary of symptoms. Certain types of foods and hormonal changes can be possible causes.

Stress relief. Stress can contribute to many types of health concerns, including headaches. Talk to your practitioner about healthy ways to handle stress.

Exercise. Physical activity is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, and it is a great antidote to stress.

Healthy habits. Do your best to eat healthy, organic foods, and to get enough sleep everyday.




Am J Public Health. 2002 October; 92(10): 1657–1661.


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