How do we treat headaches and migraines?
We have all suffered from a headache at some time or another. And we don’t like that feeling of “heavy head” when waking up or being grumpy because of the pain, not being able to focus at work and be able to socialize.
Did you know that more than a third of men and more than half of women suffer from chronic headaches in developed countries according to the World Health Organisation?
The two most common are tension-type headaches and migraines, which can occur occasionally or frequently, the latter being a chronic illness.
According to The American Migraine Foundation, migraine is the third most frequent disease in the world, impacting 1 out of every 7 individuals worldwide, totaling more than one billion people, with 148 million in the chronic stage.
Chronic migraines are more than simply a bad headache; they may signal a more serious underlying neurological issue when followed by additional signs and symptoms such as:
● nausea and vomiting
● tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
● sensitivity to sound, light, or smells
We recommend looking for a Dr. advice if you experience any of those.
How do we approach the treatment for someone complaining about headaches or migraines?
When we are assessing someone who suffers from headaches or migraines, we are checking the main causes that can lead to the problem:
– Lack of sleep and rest (an old or bad mattress can contribute to that)
– Over tense muscles in the upper back and neck area
– Lack of hydration
– Health of the eyes, tired eyes can lead to both headaches and migraines
– Work setup
– Stress, anxiety, or other emotional triggers
– Hormones, periods, or menopause can influence the intensity of the problem
– Lack of vitamins or nutrients (we can refer to the GP for a blood test)
Often, we can find a mix of causes but with the right therapy, we can reduce the intensity and frequency of headaches or migraines.
For example, if we have a case when the person has high-intensity migraines 3-4 times a week and we find that the cause is over tense Trapezius muscles and Sternocleidomastoid muscles, combined with hormonal imbalance then after a few massage sessions the frequency and the intensity can reduce with 50% – 70% (once a week of low to medium intensity migraine).
With headaches, we can see even much better improvement when after a few sessions headaches are gone, sleep is deeper, and mood is better.
Therapeutical massages on certain areas of the head, neck, and limbs can relieve migraine-related tension and pain. The key is to treat the pain as soon as it appears when it is still mild to moderate and not incapacitating.
Randomized clinical trials suggest that massage therapy might be equally effective as propranolol and topiramate in the prophylactic management of migraine. Dr. María Hernandez and colleagues from the University of Miami School of Medicine reported in 2009 clinical research how 26 adults with migraine headaches were randomly assigned to a wait-list control group or a massage treatment group that got two 30-minute massages per week for five weeks. All massage therapy subjects reported fewer distress symptoms, less pain, more headache-free days, and fewer sleep disturbances and they showed an increase in serotonin levels.
The benefits of massage extend beyond reducing headache discomfort.
● Massage stimulates the release of endorphins, natural painkillers that effectively eliminate both acute and chronic pain.
● Massage warms problem areas, eliminating muscle spasms and tension, the most common causes of headaches.
● Massage improves blood circulation and oxygenates the cells.
● Regular massage sessions eliminate stress.
Natural therapies, lifestyle habits, and dietary changes can help with these symptoms and reduce the frequency and severeness of migraine episodes, here are some other recommendations:
● Avoid foods rich in histamine: coffee, chocolate, fermented cheeses, sausages.
● Eat mostly fresh, organic vegetables as a part of your diet
● Get regular physical activity.
● Regular massage sessions are also very useful.
Chaibi, A., Tuchin, P.J. & Russell, M.B. Manual therapies for migraine: a systematic review. J Headache Pain 12, 127–133 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10194-011-0296-6
Maria Hernandez-reif, John Dieter, Tiffany Field, Bernard Swerdlow & Miguel Diego (1998) Migraine Headaches are Reduced by Massage Therapy, International Journal of Neuroscience, 96:1-2, 1-11, DOI: 10.3109/00207459808986453