Massage for Migraine: Are we talking about it enough?

There are many migraine treatments that have been well studied.  There are some that have been studied only a little bit, and that may be because the results aren’t all that encouraging.

Massage for Migraine

Massage for migraine is something different – it has been studied, some, with encouraging results.  But it hasn’t been studied nearly enough.

Yes, researchers are very positive about massage when it comes to migraine.  Health practitioners do recommend it – sometimes.  But could it be that this is a very effective treatment that we’re not talking about nearly enough?

Back in 2011, researchers published a review in The Journal of Headache and Pain, reviewing studies about physiotherapy, chiropractic, and massage therapy.  The studies on massage therapy were small and not well designed.  And yet clearly migraine patients saw improvement through this type of treatment.

Massage therapy is also frequently recommended for pregnant women with migraine, who are wanting to avoid most drug therapies.

One of the challenges with studying massage therapy is that there are so many different types.  Of course there are actually head massages, such as champissage.  But it could be that a shoulder, neck and back massage is even more effective.  In fact, foot massages seem to be very helpful for migraineurs, even if it’s self massage using a good quality foot massager.

So with so many types of massage, and so many types of migraine and other headache conditions – where do you start?

In spite of the challenges, we should not be afraid to study massage, as both a migraine preventative and a treatment during some types of attacks.  We will probably be pleasantly surprised to find that this safe, non-drug treatment is very helpful.  It could be helping many more people, and there are already a lot of migraine patients who would tell you to try it.

The study mentioned above:  Manual therapies for migraine: a systematic review

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7 comments… add one
  • Steven Cedrone Apr 16, 2013

    I went for RMT and it didn’t work for me…

  • Tanya Stewart Apr 16, 2013

    Massage is an essential treatment strategy for me!! I see a big difference when I skip going. I just wish it wasn’t so expensive- it’s not covered by my disability insurance

  • made me worse, I was miserable

  • James Bogash Apr 16, 2013

    The therapist has to know what they are doing and it likely matters whether structural issues are a component of your headaches (very common). If they are purely physiological, massage will likely not help as much, unless it is for the stress management aspect. Stress destroys the brain.

  • Leslie Begany Apr 16, 2013

    I go once a month for therapeutic massage, and the second month I did, I dropped the number of migraine attacks I get by 1/4. I wish I could go more often, but it isn’t covered by insurance, so once a month only.

  • Linda Waldron Apr 16, 2013

    Thank you for posting this as I had forgotten how helpful a massage was for me. 🙂 I suffer from hemiplegic migraines and multiple other injuries from an accident, so I’m difficult to treat. I cannot have just any massage, it has to be a hot stone massage as they don’t inflict any “hands” on approach that would aggravate pain that is already present. I have found that they help twice a month and give pain relief for about 10 days. The reason I stopped was because I was getting spinal injections…i will be going back!

  • chris Apr 17, 2013

    Massage on the head is likely not to work because it may-well compress the trigeminal nerve and is more likely to trigger a migraine, massage on other parts of the body may help you relax. The important thing for people to understand about migraine is that it will likely help you to learn how to relax the muscles in the face, head and neck – in particular not to frown, chew hard or clench your teeth.

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