Massage + Migraine, Tension-type Headaches

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Narrowing down the exact cause of headache pain isn’t always easy. Some research suggests, however, that massage therapy can help you better deal with the pain while you work through the mitigating factors—whether lifestyle, environment or hereditary—at the root of the problem.

Research on Thai Massage

The research. Investigating what, if any, benefit Thai massage may provide on the pressure pain threshold (PPT) of people suffering from headache pain, this randomized-controlled trial compared the effects of Thai massage to a shame ultrasound treatment during nine sessions over a three-week period. The 72 participants had a headache diagnosis for at least three months prior to the start of the study.

The results. The Thai massage group showed a significant increase in PPT after the treatment and at three and nine weeks follow-up when compared to the same ultrasound group. Both groups, however, saw a significant decrease in headache intensity.

Research on Head and Neck Massage

The study. Researchers looking better understand the effects of head and neck massage on heart rate variability, mood states and pressure pain thresholds in patients with chronic tension-type headaches recruited 11 patients between the ages of 20 and 68 with chronic tension-type headaches for a crossover study. Participants either received the massage protocol or a placebo intervention, detuned ultrasound. 

The results. The study authors reported participants receiving a single 30-minute massage on cervical trigger points may improve autonomic nervous system regulation in chronic tension headache patients. Participants who received the massage therapy protocol also experienced a decrease in tension, anger status and perceived pain.

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Related: Helping Clients Manage Migraines | 3 Credit Hours


J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Jun;20(6):486-92. “Effects of Thai traditional massage on pressure pain threshold and headache intensity in patients with chronic tension-type and migraine headaches.” Chatchawan U, Eungpinichpong W, Sooktho S, Tiamkao S, Yamauchi J.

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2009 Sep;32(7):527-35. “Short-term effects of manual therapy on heart rate variability, mood state, and pressure pain sensitivity in patients with chronic tension-type headache: a pilot study.” Toro-Velasco C1, Arroyo-Morales M, Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, Cleland JA, Barrero-Hernández FJ.

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