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How Therapeutic Massage Can Help Reduce Chronic Headaches

Countless Americans are over-worked and stressed-out, resulting in an increase in head tension

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, over 39 million Americans experience migraine-like symptoms. That’s nearly 10 percent of the population. So, what’s causing this stress epidemic? One of the biggest culprits is the stress and strain of everyday life. Add to this the ubiquitous nature of electronic devices and the amount of time we spend in front of screens on a daily basis. This combination of factors causes our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to go into over-drive, and one by-product might be the pulse-pounding headaches we know all too well.

So, instead of usual interventions like over the counter pain relievers, how can introducing massage therapy improve these symptoms? We sat down with our Chief Wellness Officer, Eric Stephenson to find out.

What is the first step?

As a massage therapist, the first step we take is to engage with our clients so we can understand what is ailing you in as much detail as possible. In many cases, clients may be experiencing hidden pain, but they are not acutely aware of where the pain might be originating. Probing for more details is especially important so we can identify the musculature involved, intensity and duration of the headaches and potential stress triggers. Then, it’s about finding the right massage techniques for you that will help generate the most short- and long-term relief.

How can massage help?

When you come in to your appointment at Elements, the massage therapist will engage with you to further understand what type of pain you are experiencing. From there, they will find the right massage techniques that will help generate the most short- and long-term relief. Trigger point therapy taps into the body’s internal web of muscles and tissues to relieve chronic and injury-related pain. This type of massage is an especially effective way to treat underlying headache issues.

For example, the suboccipital group is a small, but powerful, group of muscles in the back of the skull that work overtime to keep the head balanced on top of the spine. Muscle studies have shown that the jaw muscles function and dysfunction together with the suboccipital muscles in a push-pull relationship. Both muscle groups routinely harbor trigger points that cause headaches and together, they are the source of many tension headaches and migraines. Massage applied to these muscle groups can greatly help alleviate the severe pain you might be experiencing.

What about tension headaches?

For tension headaches, the use of heat utilized as part of a hot stone massage is one recommended service for clients due to the positive benefits on the nervous system. However, if your client struggles with severe migraines, it’s best to avoid direct heat to the head and instead, seek to draw blood out toward the periphery, including the hands and feet. For clients with ongoing migraines there has been research done to suggest essential oil used as part of an aromatherapy treatment, such as lavender, may be a better option. The scents have a direct pathway to the limbic system which can help trigger a parasympathetic response.

While hard research on the efficacy of massage for treating migraines and headaches is limited, anecdotal evidence suggests those who utilize massage therapy, coupled with other healthy lifestyle habits, relaxation and self-care activities, find it extremely beneficial for their improved well-being. At Elements Massage, we offer customized massage therapy. Let us help you relieve those headaches:

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