Have Persistent Headaches? Get a Massage

Persistent headaches may be debilitating. Little studies have been conducted to validate using massage therapy for managing chronic head aches though it appears intuitive that massage therapy could be a successful treatment for persistent head aches.

In the research review given by the Massage Therapy Foundation of this month, we take a closer look at one research team’s effort to analyze massage therapy as a nonpharmacological method of treating chronic head aches. Quinn and co-workers conducted a pilot study with people to “ascertain whether a regimented massage therapy system may have favorable impacts on the frequency, intensity, and length of pain related to chronic tension headache.”
Although the reason for persistent headaches is not clear, signs mentioned by Quinn and co-workers indicates these headaches may originate from continual contraction of neck and head muscles, leading to localized nutrient deficiencies as a result of ischemia. Cause points can be generated by ischemia put together and within muscles, which may stay contracted for a length period of time create a tension headache. Co-workers and Quinn indicate massage treatments that plan to improve the flow of blood to tissue may decrease the action of a cause point. Therefore, it’s not impossible that head aches that have this source could be reduced with massage therapy.

Ten continual tension headache sufferers participated in an 8-week study starting with baseline headache measures recorded that enabled each player to function as her or his very own control. In the remaining 4 weeks, the players received 30-minute massage therapy sessions two times weekly. Each participant was requested to perform a nightly logbook in that they recorded length of longest head ache, intensity of intense head ache, and their amount of head aches for each day.

The Treatments

The treatments were directed toward neck and shoulder muscles, specifically the “upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, suboccipital, splenius capitis, levator scapulae, and temporalis.” The massage protocol consisted of six distinct phases within the 30-minute time frame: preparatory tissue warm-up; myofascial release; axial cervical traction; trigger point therapy procedure; facilitated stretching techniques; and session closure. The full article provides complete detail of each of these phases of the treatment protocol.

The Results

For four of the first ten participants, data was examined because of incomplete data. Though not statistically significant, duration of headaches fell throughout the massage treatment interval (p = .058). Headache intensity was not affected by massage treatments.

On four occasions when the massage session was begun by a participant having a headache, the headache was relieved by the ending of the 30-minute treatment. This indicates that massage administered over the course of a headache episode might lead to immediate effects that are beneficial and that patients ought to be instructed in proper self-massage techniques.

They indicate the protocol was successful in reducing pain related to chronic tension headache, however they cannot say the massage part directed at alleviating trigger point action was the causative agent as opposed to the relaxation or stretching techniques.

Consequences for Practice and Research

The most striking part of the study is the massage treatment protocol that is exceptionally standardized. The authors understand that the inquiry of which part of the treatment was successful is complicated by the protocol. The general protocol was proved to be capable of treating chronic headache symptoms, while this research doesn’t clarify what’s the best massage technique for head aches. The writers indicate that treatment protocols validated for his or her effectiveness can be later analyzed to ascertain which areas of massage possess a clinically important contribution that is remedial.

Though this pilot study is exceptional in its assessment of long-term head aches using an extremely standardized protocol, its incredibly small sample size significantly limits its utility. In the findings, there’s practically no power – evidence of validity – with just four areas taken for evaluation. Though this might seem discouraging in the beginning, it’s important to understand that little studies like this one provide foundational knowledge if your large scale study is justified to find out. In case of the pilot study, data suggest that using massage therapy as a nonpharmacological treatment for chronic head aches is worthy of additional exploration.

Also, perhaps the biggest contribution of the publication is the protocol that is comprehensive. Others enjoy it, and this study, continue to support the ever-enlarging range of states that massage therapy could be delivered as an effective nonpharmacological adjunctive treatment to relieve pain and suffering.

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