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3 Kinds of Massage Therapy for Headaches

3 Kinds of Massage Therapy for Headaches

It’s common for people to experience headaches, especially when stressed, tired, or sleep-deprived. But as easy as it is to just take over-the-counter medicines to quickly relieve the pain, we still want to use non-pharmacological methods first. One option is massage therapy. What kinds of massage help soothe a headache attack? Find out here.

Massage for Headache Attacks: Is it safe?

First things first: iI massage therapy safe when you’re experiencing headaches?

Currently, we don’t have any evidence against the safety of a head massage. If any, many reports say that massaging the forehead, temples, or scalp is beneficial. After all, massage therapy is an age-old method and many of us do it to almost any aching body part.

massage for headache

Still, even if head massages are generally safe since they don’t involve medicines and are non-invasive, it doesn’t mean that you should rely solely on them for headache treatment, particularly if attacks happen intensely and frequently.

The best course of action is to consult your doctor. They will help you get to the bottom of your headache attacks and recommend appropriate interventions.

Potential Benefits

Receiving a massage for a headache attack may be safe, but is it effective?

In a position statement released by the American Massage Therapy Association, it said that massage therapy can be an effective treatment for tension headaches or “everyday” headaches. However, they didn’t mention anything about the other types, like migraine and cluster headaches.

Besides headache relief, massage therapy might also promote hair thickness and reduce blood pressure.

Types of Massage for Headache Attacks

If experts acknowledge the potential of massage therapy to treat headache attacks, what types of massage work?

Scalp massage

As per the statement of the American Massage Therapy Association, scalp massages might help improve tension headaches.

To perform this massage therapy, sit comfortably. If you’re using oil, drape a towel over your shoulders. Use your fingertips to gently apply mild to moderate pressure to your scalp. Use circular motions when massaging and ensure that you’re covering all areas. You can massage your scalp for a minimum of 5 minutes before rinsing the oil (if you’re using one).

Acupressure

Another type of massage which may soothe headache attacks is acupressure, an ancient practice that combines massage and acupuncture. In this method, you need to press or apply pressure to an acupoint that has a connection to the problematic body part.

It is believed that when you correctly massage the acupoint, you’ll be able to release the tension and improve the blood flow in the body part you’re having concerns with.

In the case of headaches, experts say you can massage the LI-4 or Hegu acupoint, which you can find in the space between your index finger and thumb.

Using your thumb, press the Hegu point using firm circular motions; do not press too hard that it hurts. Do this on both hands for several minutes, multiple times a day until the headache eases.

Neck and shoulder massage

And finally, massaging the neck and shoulders also appears to help soothe headaches. In one report, the researchers invited chronic tension headache sufferers to receive a structured massage on the neck and shoulder muscles. They then compared the frequency, duration, and intensity of the attacks before and after the treatment.

At the end of the study, the researchers noted that the frequency improved, although the massage treatment didn’t seem to affect the intensity. They concluded that neck and shoulder massage has the potential to reduce the incidences of tension headache attacks.

Key Takeaways

Massage therapy may be a safe and effective way to ease headache attacks. If you have a headache and don’t want to take meds for them yet, consider scalp massage, acupressure using the Hegu acupoint, and neck and shoulder massage.

However, don’t forget to consult your doctor if the attacks happen frequently and intensely. This is because frequent and intense headaches may be a sign of another health condition.

Learn more about Headaches and Migraines here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Massage Can Be Effective for Tension Headaches
https://www.amtamassage.org/about/position-statements/massage-effective-for-tension-headaches/
Accessed April 19, 2021

Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740347/
Accessed April 19, 2021

The effect of a scalp massage on stress hormone, blood pressure, and heart rate of healthy female
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5088109/
Accessed April 19, 2021

Acupressure for Pain and Headaches
https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/acupressure-pain-and-headaches
Accessed April 19, 2021

Massage Therapy and Frequency of Chronic Tension Headaches
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447303/
Accessed April 19, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jun 23
Medically reviewed by Nicole Aliling, M.D.
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