I have migraines on a pretty regular basis, and the advice at the bottom of the article, along with regular massages, definitely helps!
Massage for migraines surprisingly effective
The Sacramento Bee, Calif. - February 03, 2008
While symptoms vary from person to person, the pain associated with these headaches is always unpleasant. But there is hope for those who've given up on their own coping strategies, and it's literally within arm's reach.
Studies have shown that massage therapy can relieve or prevent pain connected with migraines, though it doesn't replace the need for medication and help from a doctor, experts say.
Migraines can be reduced in frequency by regular massage sessions, which decrease anxiety, heart rate and amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, according to the International Journal of Neuroscience.
Headache expert and neurologist Dr. Audrey L. Halpern of Rye, N.Y., says massage should be concentrated around the upper neck and shoulder regions.
The neck is important because it is connected to the trigeminal nucleus caudalis, a group of neurons centered in the brain stem that extend into the upper cervical spinal cord, i.e. the upper neck. Communication between these neurons and other neurons in the neck that mediate control of the neck, may be the underlying reason that migraines can cause neck pain and that neck pain can prompt migraines.
"The two most common acute migraine triggers are stress and neck muscle spasms," Halpern says, noting that full-body massage also can help by reducing stress and boosting levels of serotonin.
That's where AJ Sanchez comes in. A certified massage therapist at the Healing Touch Chiropractic in Sacramento, Sanchez suggests a preventive measure for migraine sufferers: Stay hydrated, and find a plan that works best for you.
"Massage methods should be done on an individual basis," Halpern says. "Some find it helpful, but (others) can have their migraines triggered by manipulation of the neck."
In addition, the many complications that go along with migraines -- for instance, food allergies -- should all be addressed, notes chiropractor Darrick Lawson, owner of the Healing Touch Chiropractic.
For those who aren't yet willing to spend $100-plus for a massage, Sanchez recommends some work to do at home. Feel a headache coming on? You may be able to prevent it from turning into a migraine by trying these simple massage techniques:
Hand reflexology: By pinching your fingers together, apply pressure to the web between your pointer finger and thumb and work the tenderness out for three to five minutes on each hand. This should take down the headache a few notches. Feel around this area for little curves under the skin, indicators of dehydration.
Foot reflexology: Sit down and put your bare foot on a tennis ball. Apply pressure while moving your foot around on the ball. Focus for 10 to 15 seconds on sore spots, then switch feet.
Light traction on the spine: Consult a professional to learn how to do this properly, then ask a family member or friend to try this method on you. Lying on your back, have them place a soft rolled terrycloth towel on the base of your skull before applying gentle traction from the C7 vertebra (the most protruding vertebra in the neck) up to the skull. Use 30-second traction intervals for five minutes total.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.