picture of a woman with headaches and migraines

Massage Therapy for Headaches and Migraines

What Causes Headaches and Migraines?

Headaches and migraines are often the result of muscle tension. Trigger Points in the neck and shoulder muscles can create chronic tension headaches and migraines. Headache pain is also very closely related to stress and TMJ.

How Does Massage Therapy Help a Headache or a Migraine?

Regular massage therapy can act to prevent a headache by maintaining muscle metabolic balance and improving tissue health by means of increased blood circulation. Massage therapy can help relax muscles and get the circulation moving through inflamed tissues. The best treatment protocol involves releasing the suboccipital muscles and utilizing a slower paced treatment.

What Does the Research Say about Massage Therapy for Headaches and Migraines?

  • The randomized clinical trials suggest that massage and physiotherapy are effective treatment options in the management of chronic tension-type headaches.
  • Traditional massage and Lymphatic Drainage massage resulted in a reduction of migraine attack frequency.
  • These findings support the benefit of treating tension-type headaches with either massage or massage combined with a manipulative technique
  • Single and multiple massage applications increase pressure pain threshold at myofascial trigger points. The pain threshold of myofascial trigger points have a great capacity to increase; even after multiple massage treatments, an additional gain in the pressure pain threshold was observed.

Headache and Migraine Research

J Headache Pain. 2014 Oct 2;15:67. doi: 10.1186/1129-2377-15-67.
Manual therapies for primary chronic headaches: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.
Chaibi A1, Russell MB.

Neurol Sci. 2016 Oct;37(10):1627-32. doi: 10.1007/s10072-016-2645-3. Epub 2016 Jun 23.
The efficacy of lymphatic drainage and traditional massage in the prophylaxis of migraine: a randomized, controlled parallel group study.
Happe S1,2, Peikert A3, Siegert R4, Evers S5.

Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2016 Oct;52(5):606-617. Epub 2016 Mar 18.
The effect of manipulation plus massage therapy versus massage therapy alone in people with tension-type headache. A randomized controlled clinical trial.
Espí-López GV1, Zurriaga-Llorens R, Monzani L, Falla D.

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2017 Sep;96(9):639-645. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000728.
Responsiveness of Myofascial Trigger Points to Single and Multiple Trigger Point Release Massages: A Randomized, Placebo Controlled Trial.
Moraska AF1, Schmiege SJ, Mann JD, Butryn N, Krutsch JP.