Doctors see many patients for headaches. And most of them have migraines or headaches caused by tension. Both kinds of headaches can be very painful. But a CT scan or an MRI rarely shows why the headache occurs.
- Try a Cold Pack.
- Use a Heating Pad or Hot Compress.
- Ease Pressure on Your Scalp or Head.
- Dim the Lights.
- Try Not to Chew.
- Get Some Caffeine.
- Practice Relaxation.
- dairy products.
- wheat, including pasta and bread products.
- citrus fruits.
- nitrites found in foods.
- alcohol, especially red wine
When there is pressure or pain in your head, it can be difficult to tell whether you are experiencing a typical headache or a migraine. Differentiating a migraine headache from a traditional headache, and vice versa is important. It can mean faster relief through better treatments. It can also help prevent future headaches from occurring in the first place. So, how can you tell the difference between a common headache and a migraine?
Headaches are unpleasant pains in your head that can cause pressure and ache. The pain can range from mild to severe, and they usually occur on both sides of your head. Some specific areas where headaches can occur include the forehead, temples, and back of the neck. A headache can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a week. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common headache type is a tension headache. Triggers for this headache type include stress, muscle strain, and anxiety.
Tension headaches aren’t the only type of headache; other headache types include:
Cluster headaches are severely painful headaches that occur on one side of the head and come in clusters. This means you experience cycles of headache attacks, followed by headache-free periods.
Often confused with migraine, sinus headaches co-occur with sinus infection symptoms like fever, stuffy nose, cough, congestion, and facial pressure.
A Chiari headache is caused by a birth defect known as a Chiari malformation, which causes the skull to push against parts of the brain, often causing pain in the back of the head.
A “thunderclap” headache is a very severe headache that develops in 60 seconds or less. It could be a symptom of a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical attention. It may also be caused by an aneurysm, stroke, or other injuries. Call 911 immediately if you experience a headache of this kind.
These headaches are intense or severe and often have other symptoms in addition to head pain. Symptoms associated with a migraine headache include:
- pain behind one eye or ear
- pain in the temples
- seeing spots or flashing lights
- sensitivity to light and/or sound
- temporary vision loss
When compared with tension or other headache types, migraine headache pain can be moderate to severe. Some people may experience headaches so severe they seek care at an emergency room. Migraine headaches will typically affect only one side of the head. However, it is possible to have a migraine headache that affects both sides of the head. Other differences include the pain’s quality: A migraine headache will cause intense pain that may be throbbing and will make performing daily tasks very difficult.
Migraine headaches are typically divided into two categories: migraine with aura and migraine without aura. An “aura” refers to sensations a person experiences before they get a migraine. The sensations typically occur anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes before an attack. These can include:
- feeling less mentally alert or having trouble thinking
- seeing flashing lights or unusual lines
- feeling tingling or numbness in the face or hands
- having an unusual sense of smell, taste, or touch
Some migraine sufferers may experience symptoms a day or two before the actual migraine occurs. Known as the “prodrome” phase, these subtler signs can include:
- frequent yawning
- neck stiffness
- unusual food cravings
People who experience migraines report various factors that are associated with them. These are called migraine triggers and may include:
- emotional anxiety
- hormonal changes
Fortunately, most tension headaches will go away with over-the-counter treatments. These include:
Because most headaches are stress-induced, taking steps to reduce stress can help relieve headache pain and reduce the risk for future headaches. These include:
- heat therapy, such as applying warm compresses or taking a warm shower
- neck stretching
- relaxation exercises
Prevention is often the best treatment for migraine headaches. Examples of preventive methods your doctor may prescribe include:
- making changes to your diet, such as eliminating foods and substances known to cause headaches, like alcohol and caffeine
- taking prescription medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure-lowering medicines, antiepileptic medications, or CGRP antagonists
- taking steps to reduce stress
Massage for Headaches, Migraines –
Trigger Point and Deep Tissue Massage are the best modalities to help these conditions-
Massage for headaches and migraines has proven to be an effective measure for reducing both chronic migraines and tension headaches. Massage also eases the muscle tension in the neck, jaw, and shoulders, which can cause headaches in the first place.
Can deep tissue massage help migraines?
Deep tissue massage between migraine attacks seemed to have the most favorable outcomes. (Deep tissue work during a migraine may exacerbate the pain.) Massage relieves muscle tension and spasms in the shoulders, neck, and head.
Another method is:
Acupressure for Pain and Headaches
This information explains how to use acupressure to reduce pain and headaches.
Acupressure is an ancient healing art that’s based on the traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture. With acupressure, the pressure is applied to specific places on your body. These places are called acupoints. Pressing these points can help release muscle tension and promote blood circulation. It can also relieve many common side effects of chemotherapy.
You can do acupressure at home by using your fingers to apply pressure to different acupoints. Watch the video or follow the steps below to learn how to perform acupressure to reduce pain and headaches.
Pressure Point LI-4 (Hegu)
Pressure point LI-4, also called Hegu, is located between the base of your thumb and index finger. Doing acupressure on this point relieves pain and headaches.
- Using your right thumb and index finger, find the space on your left hand between the base of your left thumb and index finger (see Figure 1).
- Press down on this point for 5 minutes. Use a circular motion. Be firm, but don’t press so hard that it hurts.
- Repeat the process on your right hand.
You can perform acupressure several times a day, or as often as needed for your symptoms to go away.
What is a Migraine?
‘Migraine’ comes from the ancient Greek word “hemicrania” which means “half-head”. Approximately 50 million people in the U.S. suffer. The cause of migraines is not known, why some people get them/some do not. People over 45 who develop migraine headaches with an aura have a six-fold increased risk of having a stroke or heart attack. A migraine stroke occurs when the spasm of the artery feeding the visual fields on one side of the brain is very intense. Women are most affected (3:1 vs. men) most commonly with the premenstrual cycle. Approximately 70% of all women who get migraines can predict the onset of a headache around their cycle. Hormonal fluctuations (estrogen) With menopause, fluctuations stop causing a 65-70% less frequency of headaches 30-45-year-olds have more migraines than any other age group. 70-80% of migraine sufferers have a family history of migraines, why is not known. 17% of children are affected by severe and recurrent headaches in the U.S. Migraine medication is not recommended until more data shows that drugs can help. Avoid the triggers.
Research on massage therapy for migraine
There is limited research on massage and migraine. However, a few small studies provide promising information.
One small 2006 study of 47 migraine sufferers randomly assigned participants to receive massage therapy or to a control group. All trial participants completed daily assessments of their sleep activity and migraine attacks. Those who had massages had fewer migraines and slept better during the weeks they had massages and in the three weeks following massages. On average, the massage group had a 34% reduction in migraines during the weeks they received massage therapy and a 30% reduction in the follow-up period, compared to reductions of 7% and 2% in the control group.1
In a study that retrospectively looked at the triggers and relieving factors among people with migraine versus people with tension headaches, massage was used by significantly more people with migraine as a technique to relieve symptoms.3
Another small randomized study evaluated 26 people with migraines. Half of the participants received massage therapy, focusing on the neck. Those who received massage therapy had significantly less migraine pain compared to the control group. From the first massage to the last, the massage group reported a 71% reduction in pain intensity.
When a migraine hits, all you want to do is to get rid of it—ASAP. The painful throbbing on one or both sides of the head, sensitivity to light, nausea, and vomiting are enough to make you want to curl up into a ball and wish the tension would just go away.
Sara Crystal, MD, a neurologist, headache specialist, and medical advisor says, the most common migraine triggers are stress, changes in a sleep cycle, hormonal imbalances, and caffeine overuse. Eating chocolate, aged cheese, and foods with MSG, nitrates, and additives could also cause a migraine. But people develop migraines for a variety of reasons.
“The causes of migraines are largely genetic. Each person has a personal trigger. That is why there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for migraines,” she says.
While there isn’t a silver bullet, doctors recommend over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, or natural remedies for migraine treatment. And one of those natural remedies involves doing a migraine massage with peppermint essential oil. Dr. Crystal says menthol, which is the active ingredient in peppermint essential oil, has been proven to help relieve headaches. In fact, a 2015 study from Frontiers in Neurology suggests that topically applying a menthol-based gel, such as those with peppermint essential oil, could significantly reduce headache intensity. Here’s how to give yourself a migraine massage:
- Dilute a few drops of the peppermint essential oil into another oil carrier, like coconut oil.
- Massage the oil into the temples and forehead, working in circular motions with the index and middle fingers.
- Continue for a minute.
If the massage is too painful, Dr. Crystal recommends adding a few drops of peppermint essential oil on a tissue and breathing deeply into it, or dabbing some of the oil onto a cold compress and applying it to your forehead. Dr. Crystal also likes using a roll-on stick, like Migrastil Migraine Stick or Health From The Sun’s MigraSoothe Roll-On, for easy application.
Did you know that an estimated 45 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches? Chronic headaches are one of the most common complaints made to healthcare practitioners every year. These headache sufferers are looking for some answers and treatment. Headaches are most often treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications. These treatments are highly effective but can be a temporary solution for a chronic problem. Massage therapy has shown to be effective in treating migraine and tension headaches.
Tension Headaches: These types of headaches can be caused by muscle spasms, trigger points, TMJ dysfunction, neck alignment, stress, hormonal/chemical changes, dehydration, and stress/anxiety. Tension headaches can show up as tightness or constricting feeling in the head, as pain in the head or referred pain in the neck, shoulders, and arms, as muscle spasms/pain, as pain in the jaw, or as pain around the temple and behind the eyes. Tension headaches usually do not come with other sensitivities, such as sensitivity to light and sound or nausea.
Migraines: These types of headaches are still somewhat mysterious. They are believed to be caused by neck alignment, chemical/hormonal changes, neurological problems, vascular problems, environmental irritants, food sensitivities, and/or blood sugar regulation. Migraines can be very severe and can last up to several days. These headaches do usually come with some sensitivities, such as sensitivity to light, sound, and nausea/vomiting.
Both tension headaches and migraines have been effectively treated by massage therapy. Not only can massage help relieve headache pain, but it can also help to prevent headaches from occurring. Massage is helpful for many reasons:
- Massage promotes circulation: Massage can increase blood flow in areas that might be ischemic (lacking blood flow) and therefore help relieve pain.
- Massage decreases pain from Trigger Points: Trigger Points are areas of hyper-irritable tissue that are very tender and also can refer pain to other areas of the body. Trigger Point Therapy or Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) can help decrease the pain and referrals into the neck and head.
- Massage relieves muscle spasms/tension: Massage can help loosen chronically tight muscles and taught bands of tissue. This helps with muscle balance and neck alignment. Also, loosening the muscles that attach to the base of the skull (sub-occipitals) can relieve the tension headaches that travel up the back of the head and into the eye, and the ‘vice-like’ constricting headaches so many people suffer from.
- Massage helps regulate certain hormones: Massage therapy has shown to decrease levels of the stress hormone Cortisol. Massage therapy also increases endorphins and stimulates the Para-Sympathetic Nervous system, therefore promoting relaxation. Because of this hormone effect, massage therapy can improve the quality of your sleep. It is a happy little cycle: decrease stress = better sleep = fewer headaches = decrease stress =……and so on and so forth.
- Migraines: The research is unclear exactly why massage therapy helps those who suffer migraine headaches. However, in multiple studies, massage therapy was shown to decrease the frequency and the duration of migraines.
One of the most exciting things about this research is that there is finally a non-pharmacological treatment for headaches. Massage therapy can be a treatment that is safe and effective–not just a cover-up. However, I must say that there are MANY potential causes of headaches, and some are a lot more serious than others. If you do suffer from chronic headaches, you want to check with your doctor first to make sure you do not need additional treatment. Once you get the okay from your doctor, provide as much information about your headaches as you can to your massage therapist, and he or she can help develop a protocol that is right for you.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company or specific massage therapy technique, modality or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.