Tension Headache:  due to spasm of muscles and blood vessels of neck, upper shoulders, and scalp.  May be accompanied by misalignment of cervical spinal joints.  Usually caused by traumatic injury, overuse, poor posture, emotional stress, or a combination of predisposing factors.

Migraine Headache:  due to a temporary narrowing, then widening of blood vessels in the brain, thus greatly increasing blood flow. Usually severe and affecting only one side of the head.  Often preceded by warning signs.  Visual and digestive disturbances are characteristic.

Cluster Headache:  due to a disturbance in blood flow to the brain.  Occurs in groups or “clusters”.  Is usually severe and one-sided, but unlike migraine, it often shows no warning signs or associated visual or digestive symptoms.  Alcohol may be a trigger.

Sinus Headache:  due to inflammation, usually in the frontal and maxillary sinuses.

Allergic Headache:  due to a heightened sensitivity to a substance eaten or inhaled.

Toxic Headache:  due to a chemical factor harmful to the body, e.g. alcohol, drugs, environmental poison, metabolic disease, caffeine withdrawal, constipation, and liver disease.

Predisposing Factors:

  • Emotional Stress
  • Hypertension
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
  • Menstruation/Menopause
  • Hereditary Predisposition
  • Preservatives in Meats
  • Fatigue
  • Bright Sunlight
  • Red Wine



Massage Therapy can be effective in treating headaches.  A Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) may use any of several techniques. Most headaches can be eliminated with Massage Therapy techniques when the symptoms are primarily due to muscular strain or sprain.  RMTs will assist their patients in recognizing substances or allergens so that they may be removed through proper diet, regular stretching, and exercise.

A variety of Massage Therapy techniques are very successful in decreasing the frequency, duration, and intensity of headache symptoms for many patients suffering from migraine or cluster headaches.

RMTs will implement postural education, relaxation techniques, remedial exercise, or the use of hydrotherapy (ice or heat) within their Treatment Plan to assist patients in the management of their headache symptoms.

RED FLAG – Headache symptoms are sometimes a warning of a more serious condition such as high blood pressure or liver disease.  RMTs are extensively trained in assessment and evaluation of headaches.  It is important to tell your Registered Massage Therapist of any symptoms you may have, and to see your physician regularly.

Research Facts About Headaches:

  • Patients who received Massage Therapy for migraine headaches showed fewer distress symptoms, reported less pain, reported more headache-free days, took fewer analgesics, and had fewer sleep disturbances.  (Touch Research Institute, Univ. of Miami).
  • Female patients suffering from chronic tension headaches who received 10 massage treatments in two-and-a-half weeks experienced a significant long-term improvement of their headaches and moods.  (Puusjarvi et al, 1990)
  • Massage Therapy increased the amount of beta-endorphins in the blood by 16 per cent.  Beta-endorphins are believed to be responsible for pain relief and a feeling of well-being.  (Kaada and Torsteinbo, 1989).

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