Emily Bilodeau, LMT (207) 779-6671


Migraine or Tension Headache

Massage can be a powerful treatment option for both migraine and tension headaches, but for massage to work, it's important for you and I to understand exactly what you're dealing with. 

cranial vault hold

Tension headaches are skeletomuscular in origin and ofter start with the muscles in the neck, shoulders or back. Either repetitive motion, postural strain, stress, or a combination of any or all of these creates enough myofascial tension that discomfort can be eventually felt across and through the skull. Reducing the tension on the affected muscles will break the headache, either during the massage or soon afterward.

Migraines are a neurological and vascular problem in the brain. An electrical short-circuit sets off a pattern of vasodilation and constriction that changes the fluid pressure in the brain. Although stress and muscular tension are contributing factors in migraine, they are just as often set off by hormones, chemical constituents of our food and drink, fatigue, and any kind of strong sensory stimuli. Although massage is a great prevention tool, it's useless during an actual migraine and can even make the cranial back pressure worse.

The problem for massage therapists like me is that it's common for people to describe any bad headache as a migraine. Every week, someone tells me that they have a migraine and asks if I can see them immediately. I can't--massage makes active migraines worse. More often than not, when people say "migraine," they just mean to say that they have a bad headache. They don't realize that there is a difference, and that the difference determines whether they can have a massage.

Only a physician can diagnose you with migraines. Remember, the difference between a migraine and a tension headache is not the severity of the pain. The difference is the source of the headache. Tension headaches can make you feel like your head is splitting open, but they can be helped with massage. Massage doesn't help migraines past the prodrome stage, but it's rare that someone having a real migraine wants to leave the house to come to my office. The more specific you are in telling me the kind of headache you have, the better the treatment plan I can make for you.
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