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Headaches | Health Conditions | Headaches | Fewer Migraines with Massage Therapy

Fewer Migraines with Massage Therapy

September 14, 2006—Massage might be more than just relaxing for migraine sufferers: new research suggests that it might reduce the frequency of their headaches.

About 18% of women and 7% of men in the United States suffer from migraines. Believed to be caused by rapid changes in the blood flow to the head, migraines are usually marked by severe headache, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. Stress and lack of sleep are common triggers for migraines and aggravate the symptoms once they have set in. Migraines are often debilitating for their duration, which can be anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Many people who get migraines seek out nondrug therapies because the medications typically used to treat migraine can cause serious side effects. People with stomach inflammation (gastritis), peptic ulcers, and cardiovascular disease, as well as pregnant or breast-feeding women, are often unable to use migraine medications. Long-term frequent use of pain relievers and some other medications used to treat migraines can cause more headaches, known as medication overuse headaches, which are far more difficult to treat than migraines.

Many migraine sufferers seek relief through massage therapy. Massage can bring about a quieting of the central nervous system known as the “relaxation response,” relax tight muscles than can trigger migraine, reduce sensations of pain and stress, and possibly improve sleep. Little research has been done into the effects of massage therapy in people with migraines.

The most recent study was published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Forty-four people with a history of migraine headaches kept daily journals of their symptoms for 13 weeks; the randomly chosen massage group received a 45-minute massage every week from week five to week ten, but the control group did not.

Compared with the control group, the massage group experienced better sleep quality and fewer migraines both during the massage therapy phase and in the three weeks after therapy ended. They also reported slightly lower levels of stress and greater coping abilities, but this difference was not statistically significant.

“This is the first evidence that massage therapy may reduce migraine frequency beyond the end of treatment,” the authors stated in their conclusion, “and research is now needed to further evaluate the durability of these effects.”

“The results of this study reflect the experience of many of my clients who report that massage seems to help reduce the frequency of migraines,” said Briane Pinkson, a licensed practical nurse and massage therapist. “Massage also helps them cope when headaches do occur,” she added.

(Ann Behav Med 2006;32:50–9)

Learn more about the naturopathic services provided by Bastyr Center for Natural Health, or schedule your appointment today.

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

Copyright © 2006 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. HEALTHNOTES and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.

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