Headache relief with the touch of a finger


From a pounding stress-induced tension headache to the stabbing pain of a migraine, headaches are a common complaint for many people.

Often the first line of defense for relief from headaches is to reach for a bottle of over-the-counter pain medication. For some, strong prescription medication is the only hope for relief. However, massage is proven to be a successful alternative for headache relief and pain management. In fact, recent studies have shown that massage therapy not only helps to relieve headache pain, it also reduces the severity and the frequency of recurrence of experiencing them.

Tension causes the body – and especially the head and face – to tighten. The jaw clenches. The eyes protrude slightly. The neck and shoulders stiffen. Muscles begin to spasm. The temples throb. Massage loosens and lengthens the facial, head and neck muscles, causing a dramatic reduction in headache pain.

Migraines are thought to be triggered by any number of factors including foods such as cheese, chocolate or nuts, spine misalignment, hormone changes, neurological or vascular issues, and allergies. This type of headache is so severe it can lead to an emergency room visit, cause someone to pound their head on the floor or remain in a dark, quiet room for hours. Unfortunately, migraines can last several days; and, cluster headaches can last for weeks.

One study conducted at the University of Miami found that migraine sufferers significantly reduced the incidences of debilitating headaches when massage therapy was used along with their medication regiment. This is promising news for those who experience migraines.

After a massage most people walk away feeling incredibly relaxed from head to toe. However, massage therapy accomplishes more than relaxed muscles. Massage aids in the regulation of hormones and improves circulation. These factors have a positive effect on the body, which help to relieve pain.

Massage therapy can decrease levels of the stress hormone Cortisol, can promote endorphins (hormones that make us feel happy) and can stimulate the Para-Sympathetic Nervous system. All this adds up to a more relaxed body. People sleep better when they are relaxed, are less irritable and less anxious, too.

When a massage therapist is aware of the issues such as tight shoulders or tense facial muscles, these areas can be massaged appropriately. For example, deep-tissue massage relaxes strained muscles that may be the root cause of headache pain. Firm pressure is applied in deep, gliding motions with the knuckles or thumbs. Loosening the muscles that attach to the base of the skull relieves tension headaches that travel up the back of the head and into the eye.

At Massage Concepts, therapy sessions have been designed to specifically target head and neck pain and upper body tension. This therapy – which is offered in 30-60-75 or 90 minute sessions – focuses only on the upper body area. Hot stones are used as pressure is applied, promoting the relief of pain and tension in the neck/shoulders, low back and other upper back. Therapeutic add-on products such as white tiger balm have positive results, too.

If you experience tension headaches or migraines, talk with your massage therapist about where your headache seems to originate, how often you are experiencing them and how you are treating them. Your therapist might be able to lessen the intensity and frequency of your head pain and reduce your need for medication.

To experience the maximum benefit from a massage plan to schedule the minimum of a 30-minute appointment. Additionally, some studies suggest that having a massage every 4 to 6 weeks assists in keeping headaches at bay.

As a side note, headaches can be a symptom of a more serious health condition. Be sure to check with your doctor before treating your chronic headaches with massage therapy.

Massage Concepts therapists in Del Mar are dedicated to wellness and improving the health of clients. For more information on relaxation massages or to make an appointment, call (858) 847-2777 or visit