It’s reported that more than 6 million people experience some form of headache on a regular basis, in Australia. In fact, headaches are one of the most common reasons cited for doctor visits, and account for the highest cause of work and school absenteeism. Whilst attempting to determine a single cause of headaches is difficult, common factors often include high-stress levels, heredity, lack of sleep, infection, disease, injury or other lifestyle factors. The common element among those suffering from headaches however – is quick relief. But what are headaches? What are the prevalent types? And is massage therapy an effective treatment for headache relief?
What Are Headaches?
A ‘headache’ is a general term that refers to any type of persistent or long-lasting pain in any region of the head, most commonly occurring above the eyes, back of the upper neck, base of the head or temples. Headaches can range in severity and frequency, and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, light and/or noise sensitivity and blurred vision.
According to a report released by WHO, common recurrent headache disorder affects nearly 47% of adults worldwide and places a considerable burden on their health, work productivity and finances.
According to the International Headache Society, headaches can be classified into the following two major categories:
Primary Headaches – are the most common (over 90% of headaches fall into this category) headaches that are spontaneous in nature and happen without any defined underlying cause. Cluster headaches, migraine headaches, and tension headaches are the more familiar types of primary headaches.
Secondary Headaches – are headaches that result from other medical conditions (major or minor). They may be triggered as a result of other underlying conditions such as head injury or trauma, high blood pressure, fever, tumor, stroke, stress, medication overuse, nerve disorder, or infection.
Beyond these two major classifications, experts have identified more than 150 different types of headaches that range from common and benign – to potentially serious.
Is Massage an Effective Treatment for Headaches?
According to a study published in The Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics, a 30-minute professional massage can improve the physiological and psychological state of people experiencing chronic tension-type headaches. Professional therapeutic massage not only helps decrease the intensity, duration, and frequency of headaches, it also helps ease muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, and jaw which can trigger headaches.
In order for massage to be effective, a massage therapist must first find the root cause of the headache; if the headache doesn’t have a relationship to muscular tension massage it is unlikely to be effective. It is also important for the massage therapist to assess each client as an individual. Every client differs in terms of their needs and overall health; the type, intensity and duration of the techniques used during the massage sessions – and therefore ultimately their effectiveness – will therefore highly depend on the careful assessment of these factors.
Professional massage therapists utilise a number of massage techniques to effectively treat different types of headaches. Some commonly used massage techniques for the treatment of primary headaches include:
Deep Tissue Massage
Trigger Point Therapy
Benefits of Massage | Is Massage Good For Headaches?
Professional therapeutic massage is considered to be a safe and effective option for treating tension headaches and some migraines for the following reasons:
Increases blood circulation in areas that might be ischemic (restriction in blood supply to tissues, causing a shortage of oxygen)
Reduces muscular tension in chronically tight muscles that attach to the base of the skull – thereby assisting to relieve tension headaches
Assists in the regulation of some hormones; including decreasing the levels of Cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases the release of endorphins (the relaxation or ‘feel good’ promoting hormones)
Assists the promotion of relaxation, sleep, and overall wellbeing – all of which help to decrease the frequency, severity and duration of tension headaches
One of the best things about massage therapy for the treatment and management of headaches is that it is completely natural, safe and drug free.
If you are experiencing headaches book in now or give us a call to speak to a therapist about how massage can help you effectively manage your headaches today!