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Expert Answer: Can massage help with my migraines?

The question itself tells us that many people who have migraine headaches are in the dark about massage.

I am a massage therapist and migraine sufferer, and let me tell you, the answer is yes! Massage may help ease the symptoms and frequency of migraines. For some, massage can even be the primary therapy that helps get rid of their migraines for good.

In general, however, no single therapy works on everyone the same way and at the same time. My clients with migraines use heat, ice, naps, drugs, exercise therapy, acupuncture, adjustments, electrical stimulation, vibrating pads, diet, any number of therapies to stop attacks. And that is just fine with me. I would never tell anyone that another therapy doesn’t work, because I know that every person is different, with their own unique causes and their own set of triggers. What works for one person with a migraine might not work for someone else, or an option might work much better after they add one or more other therapies to the mix.

A practitioner who focuses on your specific headache patterns, triggers and reactions makes the biggest difference in results. Massage therapists study and treat patterns of muscle and connective tissue dysfunction. For a person with migraines, addressing those patterns helps reduce and erase headaches. I like to question people about their patterns and then try to match their symptoms to what I am feeling in my massage.

Many people with migraines have some history of trauma — car accidents, falls – or they played frequent-injury sports such as football, soccer, gymnastics or cheer. Often these injuries have been forgotten because they did not cause major problems at the time.Over the years, however, clumps of tightened, overstretched muscles experience chronic inflammation and dysfunction. It may be many years of repeated small traumas and tightness before headaches emerge.

Several types of headaches may be happening at once, leading up to full-blown migraines. That pattern gives massage therapists opportunities to reduce frequency by addressing pre-migraine headaches. Addressing the whole body through massage is very important to prevent repeating patterns. I have found clusters of migraine-related muscle dysfunction as far away as the low back and hips.

As the patterns unravel, reactions to therapies may change as well. In my own experience, I loved massages and heat, but I would get worse if I had adjustments. As massage reduced my headache frequency, I found could get soft, non-cracking, adjustments. Also, I thought acupuncture didn’t work for me. Turns out the first acupuncturist I saw used a by-the-book approach. The second asked for my feedback instead of assuming I had the same points as everyone else. Paying attention to my symptoms and reactions did the trick.

As someone who struggled with migraines for many years, I say hang in there. If you haven’t tried massages yet, by all means go for it. A good massage, and perhaps most importantly, a focused, persistent therapist will help you find your way!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • celticherself
    3 years ago

    My first Massage was too rough! I got a migraine within hours of the massage. I met with a Chinese Medicine Massage therapist. He asked if it was OK and at the time I thought I felt okay. But within hours, my neck and shoulders swelled up and my neck has hurt so much since the massage! I had to take a generic tryptan to go to work but now the migraine has returned! I can’t wait to go home and put ice on my neck now. What can I do NOW? I’m in a lot of pain on my neck! Thanks for anyone who can respond to this.

  • jns192 moderator
    3 years ago

    Hello celticherself,
    Thanks for reaching out! Sorry to hear about your rough massage and subsequent migraine attack. If the neck pain persists, we encourage you to reach out to your doctor to ensure that it is in fact due to the massage and not anything else.
    From personal experience, I enjoy a rough massage but feel bruised afterwards. This feeling subsides after a few days for me.
    As for your neck pain, I thought you might be able to relate to this article: https://migraine.com/blog/neck-pain-and-migraine/comment-page-1/#comments
    Be sure to check out the comments section which is where community members share useful techniques in managing neck pain.
    Hope this helps!
    Best,
    Jillian (Migraine.com Team)

  • evon
    7 years ago

    how many of y’all have had migraines that don’t go away with conventional therapy and massage and alternative therapies have helped. I can’t take the drugs that are usually prescribed for migraines except dilaudid. I don’t want to be on pain pills the rest of my life.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    Hi evonst – Dilaudid is not a conventional Migraine med. In fact it is contraindicated most of the time. Medication overuse headache may result from the use of pain medicines instead of abortives that address the problem of the attack instead of the pain. Here is a link for you: https://migraine.com/blog/help-how-can-i-not-overuse-migraine-medications/

  • Hellen Philbrick
    8 years ago

    Hi I suffer! from Migraine! It come in the morning so , I have to wake up early can sleep late anymore! is that normal!

  • Audrey Wong
    8 years ago

    Hey Hellen,
    Try not to drink tea at night, crackers can have a lot of sodium too!

  • Hellen Philbrick
    8 years ago

    K!!!I drink tea, before bed time and some crackers!!!so I will make sure to pay attention on what I do before bed time !!!Thanks a lot!!

  • Pam Dickerson-Williams
    8 years ago

    Hi, Hellen…My uncle had the same problem, but when he regulated his sleep pattern, he helped migraines in that area anyway. He worked out how many hours he could sleep without getting them. I wish I had more help, but your story is like his. Sleep was a big thing with his. Maybe it’s something you had to eat before bed too.

  • Jennifer Powell Thompson
    8 years ago

    Thanks for your article. Massage does help me–I feel like I’ve been “put back together”, especially after I’ve had a migraine episode with neck pain. I don’t get to go as often as I’d like to.

  • Linda Barham Nabors
    8 years ago

    I would be very willing to try massage if I could find a therapist who listened to me and my symptoms and adjusted their treatments accordingly. The therapists I have found have not taken into account my Fibromyalgia and have been too aggressive and rough with me. I am so sore that I cannot continue with their schedule of treatment. They believe I should fall into the same category as everyone else and I don’t. I am nothing close to the norm, but no one I have went to were willing to adjust their way of doing things for my benefit. Thus, the headaches to not have a chance to be helped by this method of treatment. I believe it can work, but it is so hard finding the right therapist.

  • Loosen Up Massage Center
    8 years ago

    A blog about migraine…..

  • Brenna Knapp Fields
    8 years ago

    I just started seeing a chiropractor who is beginning a new method of adjusting me using this device that has little taps or vibrations. The office also has an excellent massage therapist who focuses on my problem areas. Hoping after s couple weeks I will see a dramatic change in the frequency and intensity of my migraines.

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