What is a Migraine?
The pain of a migraine headache is often described as an intense pulsing or throbbing pain in one area or one side of the head. Migraines generally last from 4 to 72 hours if untreated. Additional symptoms include nausea and/or vomiting, or sensitivity to both light and sound.
Warning symptoms known as aura may occur before or with the headache. These can include flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of the face or in your arm or leg. Migraines often begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Migraines may progress through four stages: prodrome, aura, headache and post-drome, though you may not experience all stages.
Migraine is three times more common in women than in men and affects more than 10 percent of people worldwide. Roughly one-third of affected individuals can predict the onset of a migraine because it is preceded by an "aura," visual disturbances that appear as flashing lights, zig-zag lines or a temporary loss of vision. People with migraine tend to have recurring attacks triggered by a number of different factors, including stress, anxiety, hormonal changes, bright or flashing lights, lack of food or sleep, and dietary substances.
Massage Therapy and Migraines
Can Massage Therapy help you with managing migraine episodes?
Every migraine sufferer takes some form of medication to help them control pain. From preventive to over-the-counter and prescribed medicines, they’re all on the go-to list when pain strikes or threatens.
A remedy that many find effective, but not so many seek out, is massage. As a therapy, massage can help relieve muscle spasms, it can improve blood flow and circulation, relieving tension and promoting relaxation. It has been shown to be helpful in bringing relief for both tension and vascular headaches.
Although a limited number of controlled studies have been done on the effectiveness of massage therapy in the treatment of migraine, one performed by the University of Miami School of Medicine tested two groups of migraine sufferers. In the first group, the control, participants took their normal medication but received no massage. In the second group, massage was added weekly to normal medication. Those in the massage group not only suffered no migraine headaches during the course of the study, they also slept better and had increased serotonin levels.
The most favorable massage routine seems to be for deep tissue work in between migraine attacks. Because many migraine sufferers experience extreme sensitivity to touch, and many find any movement increases pain levels, deep tissue massage during an attack would be out of the question. However, lighter localized massage during pain could help. It is thought that massaging these areas improves the circulation, helping to reduce pressure in the head which may be a contributory factor.
How Does Massage Help With Migraine Relief
Hormone Regulation: Hormonal chemical changes often trigger migraines. Your body produces a hormone called Cortisol; Cortisol is the body's stress hormone. Massage therapy can help control the release of cortisol, thereby reducing the level of stress in your body; this also increases endorphin production as well as stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.
Muscle Spasms or Tension: Massage in the neck and shoulder regions can help to relax taught bands of tissue called fascia, and loosening the muscles attached to the base of the skull. This can relieve caused by the tension that travels up through the back of the head and into the eye areas
Decrease Trigger Point Pain: Trigger point therapy, targets hyper-irritable, tender, tissue areas that can refer pain to other parts of the body.
Improved Circulation: Massage has been shown to increase blood flow, which in turn improves oxygen levels and can help reduce pain.
While massage can help manage and mitigate some of the symptoms of migraine, your RMT can only provide symptom management. Migraine sufferers should always be under the care and supervision of a Medical Doctor who will manage the overall treatment plan. Massage therapy is only one component of that overall plan.