Headaches and Massage

  • In this pilot study, a massage therapy treatment program was administered to tension headache patients. The frequency of headache events decreased, and successive headaches experienced by study participants were of reduced intensity and duration and these reductions persisted at least 3 weeks following massage therapy. (Moraska, A., Chandler, C. Changes in Clinical Parameters in Patients with Tension-type Headache Following Massage Therapy: A Pilot Study. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 2008; 16(2): 106–112.) Abstract
  • This study investigated the effects of massage therapy on headache activity of individuals with tension-type headache using a placebo controlled design. Participants received either six sessions of medium pressure massage or light pressure (placebo) massage or no treatment (headache-recording control). Results indicated massage was associated with a moderate decrease in headache activity regardless of whether the massage involved the manual manipulation of soft tissues. (Montalva, R. The Effects of Massage Therapy on Tension-Type Headaches: A Placebo Controlled Trial. Psychology, November 2006 (109 pp.).) Abstract
  • Twenty-six adults with migraine headaches were randomly assigned to a wait-list control group or to a massage therapy group, who received two 30-minute massages per week for five consecutive weeks. The massage therapy subjects reported fewer distress symptoms, less pain, more headache free days, fewer sleep disturbances, and they showed an increase in serotonin levels. (Hernandez-Reif, M., Dieter J., Field, T., Swerdlow, B., & Diego, M. (1998). Migraine headaches are reduced by massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 96, 1-11.) Abstract
  • A controlled trial on specific manual therapy on the neck to reduce headaches as compared with cold pack treatments on the neck. Massage has a specific effect in reducing post-traumatic headache. (Jensen, O.K., Neilsen, F., Vosmar, L. An Open Study Comparing Manual Therapy with the Use of Cold Packs in the Treatment of Post-traumatic Headache. Cephalalgia, 10 (5): 241-50; Oct 1990.) Abstract
  • Study on 21 patients with chronic tension headaches. The range of motion in all directions increased, and the number of days with neck pain decreased significantly. Confirms clinical and physiological effects of massage and headaches in reducing pain and occurrence of headaches. (Puustjarvi, K., Airaksinen, O., Pontinen, P.J. The Effects of Massage in Patients with Chronic Tension Headache. Acupunct. Electrother. Res., 15 (2): 159-62; 1990.) Abstract