Migraine Versus Headache. How Massage Therapy Treats Each One Differently.

Sometimes you wake up with one. Or you are blind sided halfway through your very busy day. Headaches are, a very frequent for some, pain in the neck. There is a big difference between these two common types of headaches, and how massage may help.

Migraine headaches
Massage, Headaches, Migraines are an intense pulsating pain on one or both sides of the head and commonly into the eyes. They are thought to be caused by sudden dilation and constriction of the blood vessels in the head. Migraines can be moderate to debilitating pain that lasts from hours to days. Attacks are usually a sudden onset from a myriad of different triggers like, stress, alcohol, food, and scents. Migraines may produce an aura or a visual precursor just before the episode begins. Migraines are very commonly associated with severe nausea, vomiting and light sensitivity.

Migraine massage treatments vary, depending on, if you have a migraine currently or not. During an episode, if you feel well enough to seek massage therapy, the massage therapist should keep the room very dark.  A cool washcloth might be put over your eyes. The massage therapist and the treatment room should be free of any odors to prevent you from feeling ill. The therapist will perform gentle massage to the neck, shoulders, face and skull. You should be kept facing up to prevent any extra pressure on your face.

Between migraine episodes, having regular massage treatments of any kind, may help reduce the frequency and duration of migraines.

Tension headache symptoms, are mild to moderate, radiating dull pain in the head and neck,  that fall in predictable patterns recognizable to the massage therapist. Tension headaches are usually caused by muscle tension or trigger points from stress or improper posture.

Massage therapy is very beneficial for tension headaches by relaxing and loosening the muscles that are causing the headaches. Receiving massage during a headache involves gentle myofascial release of the neck and shoulder muscles. Lighter muscle work can be used to soothe the muscles in spasm without making the headache worse. Similar to migraine massage, the room may need to be darker and the client may be uncomfortable in a face down position.

In the days following a tension headache and when the client has no more head or neck pain, the massage can be deeper and more vigorous to reduce muscle tension and trigger points.

It is NOT recommended to take a pain relieving medication before receiving massage, as it can prevent you from accurately feeling pain, unless a doctor has directed you to take the medicine as usual.


  • Massage therapy can help to reduce the frequency of headaches.
  • Massage therapy can help reduce pain associated with headaches.
  • Massage therapy can reduce the stress  from a migraine incident.