Migraines & Massage

Anyone who has experienced a migraine would do nearly anything to never have one again. Migraines are extremely painful and come with many symptoms a normal headache doesn’t have.

What is a Migraine? 

Migraines are severe headaches that a person experiences many times throughout their lives. They often cause you to be overly sensitive to light and sound, resulting in the stereotypical image of a person laying in a dark room with no noise. Unfortunately, a cure hasn’t been found yet.

What are the symptoms of a migraine? 

Migraines have four stages, each with different symptoms. These stages are called prodrome, aura, headache, and postdrome. You might not experience all of these stages every time.

Prodrome Stage

This stage starts up to a full day before the migraine actually starts. Symptoms can include:

  • Food cravings
  • Mood changes
  • Excessive yawning
  • Fluid retention
  • More frequent urination

If you can start to recognize which of these symptoms you experience, if any of them, you can start predicting when a migraine will occur.

Aura Stage

This stage, as the name suggests, is when an aura can occur. This can be before or during the migraine and can last 20-60 minutes. The symptoms of an aura will be discussed later.

Headache Stage

This is when the actual migraine happens. Symptoms typically start gradually and become worse over time. These can be:

  • Throbbing or pulsing pain on one or both sides of your head
  • Increased sensitivity to light, noise, and smells
  • Nausea and vomiting

Moving, coughing, or sneezing can make the pain worse. This is the worst stage of the migraine.

Postdrome Stage

This stage occurs after the migraine has passed. You might feel:

  • Exhausted
  • Weak
  • Confused

These symptoms should only last a day at most.

What is an Aura?

An aura is a sensory disturbance, meaning you experience things that aren’t actually happening, such as:

  • Flashing lights
  • Bright lights
  • Zig-zagging lines
  • Feeling like you’re being touched

You can also feel weak while experiencing an aura. Not everyone has these when they experience migraines.

The cause of these sensory disturbances isn’t known.

What are the causes, or triggers of migraines?

Migraines are thought to be linked to genetics. You are also more likely to have migraines if you are a woman or suffer from other medical conditions, such as mental illnesses, sleep disorders, and epilepsy.

Factors that can trigger a migraine vary from person to person. Some triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Bright/flashing lights
  • Loud noises
  • Strong smells
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Sudden environmental or weather changes
  • Tobacco
  • Caffeine
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Skipping meals
  • Overusing migraine medications

When paired with other triggers, some foods can be triggers.

How do massages help with migraines? 

Two of the main causes of migraines are stress and tension. Massages are relaxing mentally and physically, so they can reduce symptoms and migraines themselves.

Regularly booked massages can reduce the frequency at which someone experiences migraines. Give it a try and see how your body responds!

Is there lasting relief from a massage for migraines?

Frequent relaxation, either physically or mentally, can lead to lasting relief. There have been many great testimonials from migraine sufferers that love their regular massages and swear that they make a world of a difference for them.

It is important to take time for yourself and relax when you need it. You should spend at least 30 minutes every day doing something relaxing, either mentally, physically, or both!

What are the best types of massages for migraines?

Because massages cause relaxation, many types of massages can work well to improve migraine symptoms. Some of these include deep tissue, myofascial release, RAPID, and cupping massages.

A deep tissue massage that focuses on the base of your skull, neck, shoulders, and upper back relieving tension that seems to contribute to migraines.

Please note that deep tissue massage can sometimes bring on a migraine in some people when they do not have one coming into their massage. This is an uncommon bodily response to treatment that sometimes happens and can be due to many factors, such as: not drinking enough water before the massage, the pressure was too deep, the increased circulation brought on the migraine, or perhaps sped up the process for an already evolving migraine. Please make sure to communicate with your RMT about any previous experiences like this, or any adverse reactions you might foresee from your treatment. Always listen to your body.

A link has been found between myofascial trigger points and migraines, so releasing the tension in these points can reduce migraines. The massage focuses on relieving tension in your muscles related to myofascial trigger points as well as lengthening connective tissue/fascia.

This type of massage uses movement and pressure in specific directions to break up adhesions in connective tissue. This can be used before another type of massage or on its own. There is often a great response in the body and a relief from migraines and headaches with RAPID.

This massage modality and tool involves cups being placed on your skin to create suction. This reduces muscle and connective tissue tension and can increase blood flow, relaxation, and well-being. This is a very ancient form of massage therapy, dating back to the ancient Egyptians.

How many massage treatments are recommended? 

2 x 30-minute massage sessions a week for several weeks seems to have long-term relief from migraines.

If you cannot come that often, we often recommend bi-weekly or monthly massages for maintenance. Once you start implementing massage into your routine, you will better be able to calculate the frequency that works best for you.

What can I do at home to help my migraines?

You can give yourself a face and scalp massage at home. YouTube can be a helpful tool for this.

Drinking water, reducing stress, and stretching can all reduce the frequency of migraines as well. 

Migraines are painful and come with many unpleasant symptoms. Massage therapy can help reduce the frequency and severity!

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