Research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, the American Journal of Public Health, and Journal of Child Neurology indicates that massage can reduce the occurrence and frequency of tension and migraine headaches. This supports the experience of many massage clients who report a decrease in both headaches and headache pain.

How does massage help?

Massage relaxes tense muscles. When tension held in the muscles of the head, shoulders, and neck eases, there is less pressure on the nerves and blood vessels that supply them. Blood flow improves and muscle spasms are often relieved.

Trigger points in the neck, head and shoulders can be another cause of pain which respond well to specific massage techniques.

These factors add up to relief of tension or migraine headaches.

Massage therapy often reduces the anxiety and worry that can accompany headaches, too. As overall stress eases and muscle tension that can trigger headaches lessens, headaches can be prevented as well as relieved.

Self-massage for stress and headache relief

If you can't get in for a massage, the following moves can help relieve stress and pain.

1. Press the palms into the center of the forehead. Using a comfortable pressure, stroke across the forehead outward.

2. Find the center line of your forehead with the first two fingers of each hand. Move the fingers about one inch horizontally to the sides of the center line. Press and release from the hairline downward.

3. Move your fingers one inch more away from the center line, and repeat the press and release movements. Keep inching away from the center line and vary using the fingers to press into points with making small circles.

4. Place your thumbs or index fingers at the center of your forehead, just above the eyebrows. "Draw" a line from the midline to the temples. Smooth the skin across the eyebrows, making small circles at temples.

5. Trace with your fingers from the temples down to the jaw. Make small circles into the jaw.

6. Move the fingers to the center of the forehead, and repeat the movements, again finishing at the jaw.

7. Place the fingers near the hairline and repeat the sequence.

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