How massage helps to fight headache
Ever had a headache?
Well, you are not the only one.
According to the World Health Organization, almost half of the adult population have had a headache at least once within the last year.
A headache has been underestimated, under-recognized and under-treated throughout the world. But it does not have to be, there is another solution. And that is massage.
We explain later. First, some facts.
There are many types of headaches like most people call them a migraine, tension-type headache and cluster headache.
And according to the World Health Organization, the most common secondary headache disorder is a medication-overuse headache. This affects even up to 5% of some populations, women more than men.
However, as we learned in Thailand 80 percent of the headaches can be decreased by massage. It is actually simple. We will explain to you later on in this article. But first I like to share you my (Nicole) story.
This is my story
“Tomorrow would be my 1 year anniversary of being on sick leave. I had a heavy concussion and a whiplash – a suitcase had fallen off the overhead luggage rack while the airplane I was on moved to the airstrip, ready for departure.
My life was not as I had imagined.
I was using painkillers to suppress an enormous headache. I was in bed all day. I could not bear any sound. Nor could I handle any stress. Even grocery shopping was too much.
It was my 7th concussion and 4th whiplash. And I had done a lot of tests: X-ray examination – when I found out I was allergic to contrast agents and had a near-death experience, but that’s a different story – ultrasound, EEC, CT-scan, MRI and neurological examination. They could not find anything.
I had tried all kinds of treatments and therapy to get rid of my pain and symptoms. Physiotherapy. Shockwave therapy (sound waves). A neurologist even paralyzed a nerve for a few days. Neck-traction device at the hospital. I wore a neck brace. Tried a brand-new head pillow that had been custom-made for me. I even changed my diet.
The only thing that had decreased the worst pain to some degree was treatment from an ortho-manual therapist. The only other alternative was to just lie down in a dark room with painkillers, although that was more pain suppression.
That day, my neurologist asked me if it would not be better for me to resign: quit my office job.
Quit? But then what would I do?
I gave her a hundred reasons not to quit my job. Like being pregnant – perhaps not the ideal timing to resign when I was about to have a baby and being ill as well. No job? Then what? What about my future? And what about my baby that was on the way?
As all these reasons went through my mind, my neurologist gave me one reason – an incentive really – to resign.
She told me that I would get better if I gave massage treatments. I was overwhelmed. I thought it was weird. However, I was also curious. She told that she had seen the same scenario in her practice for years: “We take too many pills, Nicole. We have stressful jobs and just keep taking pills. Not good for people, like you, with headaches.”
She was a fan of therapeutic Thai massage. It helped her relax. It also helped many of her clients who suffered from headaches. “And then you have a relaxed job!” She laughed when she left.
The seed was planted. I started doing some research. I booked massage treatments, so I could experience it myself.
Guess what? She was right!
I had a therapeutic Thai massage every three days for three weeks in a row. The treatments were specifically for headaches and whiplash pain and injuries.
My headaches disappeared.
I had dealt with my headaches and pain for so long, that I just could not remember how good, free and relaxed it felt without a headache.
I threw away my painkillers.
And more importantly, I turned my life around.
I started giving massage treatments and classes full-time. All of a sudden my workspace was no longer an office with computers and deadlines, but a nice space with soothing music and lovely essential oils.
Every day, I make people happy with my massage treatments. Do you know how much energy that gives me? I schedule my own time. I work when I want to. I even meditate during treatments. My body became stronger. My life changed completely. Without headaches.
So now you know my story.
The question is how massage reduces headache?
Well, Manel can explain that clearly: “80 percent of the headaches are caused by a stiff upper back or neck.
There are many causes.
It can be…
An accident (like a concussion, whiplash), so the muscles are overused due to the injury.
Stress – you tighten your upper back muscles too often.
Or lack of movement.
Your upper back becomes stiff because you sit long hours.
Mostly the trapezius muscle or splenius capitis (muscle in the back of the neck) is stiff. You might feel nodes in these muscles. This stiffness can cause the blocking of capillaries. So the blood circulation decreases towards the head. Blood transports oxygen, information, and nutrition to the cells.
Feeling down with a headache?
If you have a lack of blood flow towards the head, you can feel like you are having a bag around you and you feel that there is not enough oxygen. You might even feel down or depressed or heavy or irritated.
How does massage help?
By a massage that exists of deep acupressure and stretches among the stiff muscles of the upper back and neck, the blood circulation improves in general and also to the head. And therefore reduces a headache.
High blood pressure?
There are also other reasons for having a headache. Maybe your headache is caused by high blood pressure? Then massage can also help to decrease your headache. Because massage balances the blood pressure.
Stress is one of the main reasons to ailments nowadays. And stress can also cause a headache because when you are stressed your blood pressure goes up and high blood pressure is a reason for headaches. When you receive massage your hormones will balance.
So when you have stress, you have too much cortisol in your body. During the massage, the cortisol, the stress hormone, will decrease. And serotonin, the happy hormone, will increase. So you feel very quickly during a massage relaxed, your high blood pressure lowers and headache diminishes.
So in short…
So instead of taking medicines, massage can be seen as an alternative to reduce headaches. Because massage improves circulation, massage reduces high blood pressure and massage can balance the levels of serotonin, dopamine and other types of neurotransmitters or hormones that can affect people who have headaches.
However, when you suffer from headaches, please seek advice from a doctor first. The doctor needs to diagnose the cause of your headache. And can advise you if in your case a massage can be recommended.
This might sound funny…
We forgot to tell you another reason why you can have a headache. And that is because you think too much! This might sound funny for you. However, in Thailand monks tell us we think too much in the west, we should give our brain a bit rest. That is why meditation is recommended. You can, of course, do meditation yourself. However, when you receive a massage it feels like a meditation. And, if you give a traditional Thai massage, as a masseur you also feel that you are in a meditation state. So in that way, it works both ways.”
Hope it is clear now how massage reduces headaches. We wish you a headache free day, well even better a headache free life!
Create a healthy day!
Nicole & Manel
PS: We have an announcement: We have created an Online Course: Therapy Massage for Headache. If you are interested, there is an introduction price at the moment. You can read here more
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