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Chronic Headaches

Chronic Headaches, and how Massage Therapy can help you.

If reaching for the aspirin or ibuprofen doesn't seem to sooth your headache, you may consider an alternative -- massage therapy.

A new study concludes massage therapy that targets your neck and shoulder muscles can reduce the number of headaches you have and how long they last.

The study focused on several patients with chronic tension headaches. Each patient received 30 minutes of massage therapy, twice a week, for four weeks. During the treatment the group reduced their average number of headaches from nearly seven to two. The length of the headaches that used to average eight hours was almost cut in half. And researchers also found patients reported less depression and anxiety. The intensity of the headaches, however, remained the same.

Some headaches are the result of more serious problems and can't be treated by massage therapy. But if your headaches are related to internalized tension, then massage therapy may provide some comforting results.

Chronic headaches could be a sign of an underlying problem and may need medical intervention such as meningitis, cerebral tumor, hypertension and ear infections. Be safe and get a medical diagnosis.

If a headache comes on suddenly, severely or is accompanied by nausea, please use the acupressure point at the tip of the index finger to dial 911.

Massage for Migraine Headaches

Granted, massage is relaxing and safe. But can it help with migraines? A small study carried out by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Florida suggests it can.

THE STUDY: Participants were randomly assigned to two groups, the twelve people in the first group received twice weekly massages for five weeks. In this thirty minute massage, the therapist kneaded muscles in the back of the neck, the base of the skull, and the head. Those in the second group (14 people) were not treated. Throughout, both groups took their migraine prescriptions and kept logs of their pain.

FINDINGS: The massaged participants reported fewer sleep disturbances and headaches. Almost 60% of them went the entire month headache free, as opposed to 40% of the control group. Reported in the International Journal of Neuroscience.

Clinical massage is the treatment of choice for tension headaches (also known as stress headaches), the most common type of headache in adults. How does it work? Massage relieves tension in the muscles, and muscle tension plays a key role in making the pain of headaches worse. Clinical massage can help other kinds of headaches as well, including vascular headaches due to blood vessel constriction. It can even reduce the frequency and intensity of classic migraines. In addition to massage, some therapists recommend that those with chronic headaches undergo a postural examination as well, because poor posture can cause severe ongoing stress to neck muscles.