Many of our clients in Wake Forest, NC are thinking about massage as complamentery treatment for migraine. In this article we try to talk about everything about benefits of massage for migraine.
What is Migraine?
Migraine is a complex neurological disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of severe headache, often accompanied by a variety of other symptoms. Here’s a comprehensive overview of migraines:
A migraine is a type of headache that can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on just one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
Migraine attacks can cause significant pain for hours to days and can be so severe that the pain is disabling. Symptoms can be divided into four phases, although not everyone goes through each phase:
Prodrome: One or two days before a migraine, you might notice subtle changes that warn of an upcoming migraine, including constipation, mood changes, food cravings, neck stiffness, increased thirst and urination, and frequent yawning.
Aura: Auras are symptoms of the nervous system. They’re usually visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or wavy, zigzag vision. Sometimes auras can also involve movement (motor) or speech (verbal) disturbances. Your muscles might feel weak, or you might feel as though someone is touching you. Each of these symptoms usually begins gradually, builds up over several minutes, and lasts for 20 to 60 minutes.
Attack: During a migraine, you might have:
- Pain on one side or both sides of your head
- Pain that feels throbbing or pulsing
- Sensitivity to light, sounds, and sometimes smells and touch
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Lightheadedness, sometimes followed by fainting
Post-drome: This is the phase after a migraine attack. You might feel drained and washed out, while some people feel elated. For about 24 hours, you might also experience confusion, moodiness, dizziness, weakness, and sensitivity to light and sound.
The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but they’re believed to result from abnormal brain activity affecting nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels in the brain. Genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role.
Several factors can trigger migraines, including:
- Hormonal changes in women
- Certain foods and additives
- Drinks (e.g., alcohol, especially wine, and caffeinated beverages)
- Sensory stimuli (bright lights, sun glare, loud sounds)
- Changes in wake-sleep pattern
- Physical factors, such as physical exertion
- Weather changes or barometric pressure changes
- Medications, like oral contraceptives or vasodilators
Migraine treatment aims to prevent full-blown attacks, and alleviate the symptoms if they start:
Pain-relieving medications: Also called acute or abortive treatment, these types of drugs are taken during migraine attacks and are designed to stop symptoms.
Preventive medications: These drugs are taken regularly, often daily, to reduce the severity or frequency of migraines.
Certain lifestyle changes might help reduce the frequency of migraines:
- Avoid known triggers.
- Establish a daily routine with regular sleep patterns and regular meals.
- Regular physical activity can reduce migraine frequency and severity.
- Reduce stress.
- Reduce caffeine.
Types of Migraines:
- There are several types of migraines, including:
- Migraine without aura (common migraine)
- Migraine with aura (classic migraine)
- Chronic migraine
- Vestibular migraine
- Hemiplegic migraine
- Retinal migraine
Chronic migraines: This refers to having a migraine headache for 15 days or more a month.
Medication-overuse headaches: Occur from overusing medications to treat acute migraine symptoms.
Serotonin syndrome: A rare, potentially life-threatening condition that can occur when medications that alter the activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin are taken together.
Relation to Other Conditions:
Migraine is associated with several other conditions, including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
If you believe you suffer from migraines or any other medical condition, always consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Differences between headache and migraine
Headaches and migraines are both types of pain that occur in the head, but they have distinct differences in their causes, symptoms, and treatments. Here’s a breakdown:
Type and Location of Pain:
Pain can be all over the head or in specific regions.
Often described as a dull, aching, or tight sensation.
Tends to be bilateral, meaning it affects both sides of the head.
Pain is typically throbbing or pulsing.
Often occurs on one side of the head, but can affect both sides.
May be accompanied by other symptoms such as sensitivity to light and sound.
Varies from short-lived to chronic.
Can last from 4 hours to 3 days or more if not treated.
Generally limited to pain.
May have preceding symptoms (called an “aura”) that can include visual disturbances, tingling, or numbness.
Sensitivity to light, sound, and sometimes smells.
Nausea or vomiting.
Dizziness or vertigo.
Stress, lack of sleep, skipped meals, or certain foods or drinks.
Many potential triggers including hormonal changes, certain foods and drinks (like wine, chocolate, or aged cheese), changes in weather, stress, strong smells, and more.
Can result from a variety of causes, including tension, sinus congestion, or an underlying health condition.
The exact cause is not fully understood, but it’s believed to result from abnormal brain activity affecting nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels in the brain.
Over-the-counter pain relievers (like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen) and lifestyle changes.
Migraine-specific medications like triptans, ergots, and preventive medications.
Lifestyle changes, biofeedback, and other non-drug treatments can also help manage migraines.
Can occur sporadically or frequently, depending on its type and cause.
Some people have migraines occasionally, while others may have them several times a month.
Depending on the type and cause, prevention strategies might include stress management, avoiding certain foods or drinks, or managing underlying health conditions.
Keeping a migraine diary to identify and avoid triggers, taking preventive medications, and managing stress.
It’s worth noting that while these are generalized differences, there are many types of headaches, including tension-type headaches, cluster headaches, sinus headaches, and more. If someone experiences frequent or severe headaches or migraines, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Massage for migraine
Massage therapy can be a beneficial complementary treatment for migraine sufferers. While it might not eliminate migraines entirely, it can help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks and improve the overall quality of life. Here’s how massage can help and some techniques that can be particularly beneficial:
Benefits of Massage for Migraines:
Relaxation: Migraines can be triggered or exacerbated by stress. Massage can help reduce stress and promote relaxation by releasing tension in the muscles and promoting an overall sense of well-being.
Improved Blood Circulation: Massage can increase blood flow, which can help reduce pain and promote healing.
Release of Muscle Knots and Tension: Tension in the neck, shoulders, and head can contribute to migraines. Massage can help release these tight areas and reduce the tension that might be contributing to migraines.
Stimulation of the Parasympathetic Nervous System: This helps to calm the body and can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.
Decrease in Certain Chemicals: Massage can reduce the levels of substances like cortisol (a stress hormone) and increase endorphins (natural painkillers).
Massage Techniques Beneficial for Migraine Sufferers:
Craniosacral Therapy: This gentle technique focuses on the bones of the head, spinal column, and sacrum. It aims to relieve tension and improve the flow of cerebrospinal fluid.
Myofascial Release: Targets the connective tissue (fascia) surrounding muscles, bones, and organs. By releasing restrictions in the fascia, this technique can reduce tension and pain.
Trigger Point Therapy: Focuses on releasing trigger points, which are tight knots within muscles that can cause pain locally and in other parts of the body.
Swedish Massage: A gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, and tapping to help relax and energize the body.
Deep Tissue Massage: Targets the deeper layers of muscles and connective tissues, beneficial for chronic muscle tension.
Neuromuscular Therapy: Focuses on areas of muscle spasm, aiming to relieve the source of the pain through cycles of isolated pressure and release.
Tips for Migraine Sufferers Seeking Massage:
Communication: Inform your therapist about your migraines, their frequency, triggers, and any other relevant details.
Schedule Wisely: If you know certain times or days you’re more prone to migraines, avoid scheduling massages then.
Hydrate: Drink plenty of water after your massage to help flush out any toxins and avoid dehydration, which can be a migraine trigger.
Keep a Migraine Diary: This can help you determine if the massages are helping reduce the frequency or severity of your migraines.
Consult Your Doctor: Before starting any complementary therapies, always consult with your healthcare provider, especially if you have other underlying health conditions.
Remember, while massage can provide relief for many, it might not work for everyone. It’s essential to find what combination of treatments and therapies work best for your individual needs.