Jul 30, 2010
Massage Therapy as a Headache Treatment
Many people search for headache relief. Did you know that massage therapy can be used as a headache treatment? It's most effective on tension headaches, but can also help treat migraines. 90 percent of men and 95 percent of women have suffered from a headache within the past year. No wonder headaches are considered one of the most common medical conditions.
Did you know that there are 150 different types of headaches? These types of headaches can all be put into two categories--primary and secondary. A primary headache is a headache that has no other cause. A secondary headache is the symptom of another problem. Some things that can cause secondary headaches are: stroke, brain tumor, subdural hematoma, epidural hematoma, Parkinson's disease, severe hypertension, infection, carbon monoxide poisoning, and dehydration. These are just a few things that can cause secondary headaches. Most headaches are primary headaches, but if you have chronic headaches, you should get checked out by a doctor to make sure they aren't a symptom of something more serious.
Three most common types of headaches are migraines, tension headaches and cluster headaches.
Migraines are vascular headaches. They're caused when the blood vessels in the head become dilated or inflamed. Most migraine sufferers are women. Migraine sufferers are sensitive to noise and light when the headache is occurring. They usually want to lay down in a dark room undisturbed for the period of the attack. Migraine attacks can last from 1 to 72 hours.
Massage helps decrease the frequency of migraine and helps migraine sufferers get a better night's sleep. Massage raises serotonin levels. Serotonin is a pain reducing hormone. Many migraine sufferers have low serotonin levels. Reflexology, shiatsu, CranioScaral therapy and neuromuscular therapy are especially effective in providing headache relief.
Tension headaches are the most common types of headaches. They were once believed to come from tension in the muscles in the head, neck, shoulders and face, but recent studies have discredited that theory. Tests on tension headache sufferers show that they have less muscle tension during a headache than migraine sufferers.
Researchers now believe that they have a chemical trigger. Migraines and tension headaches are more closely related than previously thought. They have similar chemical triggers.
The name of this headache describes how it feels. It feels like a pressure on your head. It has been described as feeling like wearing a tight swimming cap or having a tight elastic band wrapped around your head. These headaches, though painful, usually aren't debilitating. Sufferers aren't sensitive to light and noise like migraine sufferers.
Massage can provide headache relief and decrease the length of time your tension headache lasts. My husband suffers from tension headaches. He used to suffer from them quite regularly, but now only gets them occasionally. He's found that deep tissue massage to the neck and shoulders when he feels a headache coming on will give him headache relief. He's also found that drinking plenty of water helps.
You're probably thinking, "That's great for him, he's married to a massage therapist." My husband gets headache relief by massaging himself. I'm often too busy or tired to be bothered with massaging him whenever he feels a tension headache coming on. I'm not a terrible wife, he just used to get a lot of tension headaches. I taught him about self massage and he's able to take care of the problem himself.
Cluster headaches are among the most painful type of headache. They usually occur on one side of the head behind the eyes and are described as a sharp, burning pain. These headaches come in groups, hence the name cluster headaches.
Each individual headache can last 45 to 90 minutes. Some people have them multiple times a day, but most have them at the same time everyday for weeks or even months. This is followed by a remission period that could lasts months or even years, but some people do have chronic cluster headaches with no period of remission.
The pain from cluster headaches can be quite debilitating. Often cluster headaches will be accompanied by congestion, a teary eye and droopy eyelid on the side experiencing the headache.
These headaches have several causes. Increased sensitivity in the trigeminal nerve located behind the eye can cause cluster headaches. When this nerve is irritated it responds with pain to the dilation of blood vessels. It also triggers the path of autonomic nerves at the base of the brain. This causes the congestion, teary eye and drooping eyelid.
Cluster headaches are also caused by dysfunction in the hypothalamus or the body's biological clock. This explains why the headaches occur in a predictable cycle. People who experience cluster headaches usually have a slightly larger hypothalamus than most other people.
These headaches occur mainly in men. Smoking and drinking alcohol put you at a higher risk of getting them.
Shiatsu, CranioSacral therapy, reflexology and deep tissue massage all help provide headache relief for cluster headache suffers.