Sunday, February 26, 2012
Migraines and Massage
A few months ago, one of my regular clients came to see me, complaining that her migraines had been acting up and she’d only been able to get about 2-3 hours of sleep every night for the past couple of weeks. I knew she had TMJ, but since she never mentioned migraines on my health form and we had been focusing on a few other pressing physical issues, it never occurred to me to ask more than just a simple question or two about it in the past that she brushed off as nothing serious.
But now it was serious. And she was shocked to find out that massage might help her.
About 18% of women and 7% of men in the United States suffer from migraines. Believed to be caused by rapid changes in the blood flow to the head, migraines are usually marked by severe headache, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. Stress and lack of sleep are common triggers for migraines and aggravate the symptoms once they have set in. Migraines are often debilitating for their duration, which can be anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
Sadly, the medications used to treat migraines usually have pretty nasty side effects, including nausea, dizziness, muscle weakness, ulcers and even more headaches known as medication overuse headaches, which are even more difficult to treat than migraines.
So, is there hope? Of course. There’s always hope.
Little research has been done to study the effects of massage and migraines, but what has been done shows that massage therapy can bring about a quieting of the central nervous system by relaxing tight muscles than can trigger migraines, reduce sensations of pain and stress, and possibly improve sleep.
So, give it a shot – either on your own or by a professional massage therapist. Giving yourself a light massage combined with migraine pressure points will give you the greatest relief.
What Is a Migraine Pressure Point?
A migraine pressure point is a point on your body that, when pressed, will lessen the pain in your head. Surprisingly, a migraine pressure point is not necessarily the point that hurts most.
A migraine pressure point may be pressed and released in slow, rhythmical fashion, and deliberately massaged to gain relief. This will release congested energy and blood from the head and ease your pain.
Migraine Pressure Point Technique
Follow these simple steps at each migraine pressure point:
1. Use only the pads of your thumbs or first two fingers -- never the ends -- and keep the pressure light to moderate, depending on how sensitive the point is to your touch.
2. Press hard enough so you can feel hardness or tension under your thumb or fingers, but if a migraine pressure point hurts so much that you can't take a deep breath, apply less pressure on that point.
3. Let your fingers sink into the migraine pressure point as you apply pressure gradually.
4. When your thumb or finger is as deep as you want to go, massage the point with tiny, circular movements.
5. Stay on the migraine pressure point until you feel a movement or change there. It may feel softer or warmer. Counting to 10, slowly, gradually release the migraine pressure point until your thumb or finger leaves the skin.
6. Repeat several times at same point.
Firm but gentle is the key. Insufficient pressure on a migraine pressure point will not be effective and too much pressure will create tension in your surrounding muscles.
Migraine Pressure Points
Different bodies respond differently to pressure points, but these are some of the most common ones and (more or less) self-treatable.
1. Migraine Pressure Point at the Base of Skull
Locate the bony base of your skull in back, called the occiput. Place your thumb pads under the skull's base, each thumb about 1 inch from your spinal column. Holding your thumbs against the two points, tilt your head back slightly. Now press upward gradually, count to 10, and breathe deeply as you do so. Follow the technique stated above.
2. Migraine Pressure Point at Mid-Forehead
This migraine pressure point is located at the middle of your forehead, right between your eyebrows. Using the migraine pressure point technique described above, and your thumbs or one of the first two fingers, press inward gradually, counting to 10, and breathing deeply as you do so until you reach the deepest point.
3. Migraine Pressure Point at Eye Corners
Feel the face at the outer corners of your eyes. Move your fingers away from the eyes until you find the spots just behind the bone. Using the migraine pressure point technique and one or two finger pads, apply pressure gradually inward, counting to 10, and breathing deeply as you do so.
4. Migraine Pressure Point on Hand
Surprisingly, you have a migraine pressure point on each hand. It's the fleshy part between your thumb and index finger. Using the thumb pad and index finger of your opposite hand, gradually squeeze the upper portion of this migraine pressure point, counting to 10 and breathing deeply.
5. Migraine Pressure Point on Foot
Locate the place where the bones come together between your big toe and your second toe. With thumb or finger pads, press downward gradually, counting to 10, and breathing deeply as you do so.
My client and I worked on those pressure points in addition to a few others and, happily, during her next session a few weeks later she reported no further migraines and full nights of sleep. Awesome.