Migraine is the 3rd most prevalent illness in the World affecting an incredible 1 billion people worldwide (Reference Migraine Research Foundation)
12% of the population suffer – including children
18% of women, 6% of men, and 10% of children experience migraines
They are most common between the ages of 25 and 55
Migraines tend to run in families. About 90% of sufferers have family history
What is a migraine?
A migraine is a severe neurological condition, that can be episodic or chronic. It usually starts with a severe throbbing a shooting searing pain in the neck or side of the head. Often it is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, visual disturbances, tingling and hypersensitivity of the senses. Attacks can last between 4 - 72 hours.
What does a migraine feel like?
I am lucky enough never to have suffered a migraine, and unless you have you will never know exactly how debilitating, disorientating and downright vomit-inducing it can be.
I have a couple of clients who come to see me for massage therapy in Singapore who unfortunately do suffer, and have described the horror they feel during an attack. To be honest, you only have to look at their eyes to understand. Descriptions such as these give you an idea…
“Like a vice around my head, with stabbing behind my ears and pressure behind my eyes. Pull the shades, lie down, don’t move.” -Linda Christopher via Facebook
“It’s like having your head compressed by a two-ton brick while someone hits your temple with a hammer at random intervals.” -Emma Gray, Senior Editor, HuffPost Women
Getting help for your migraines
During an attack, you are most likely not going to want anyone to touch you or even come near you, ride it out in a dark room, take any medication you may have been prescribed by a doctor and wait until it eases.
How can a massage therapist help?
When you’re coming out of an attack, getting an appointment with your therapist can help.
Massage has been proven to help reduce muscle spasms, improve circulation, relieve tension and vascular headache pain and promote relaxation - all aspects that you may likely suffer during a migraine attack when your whole body feels like it has been “on the rack” for sometimes, days.
Backed up by a bit of science...
The University of Miami, School of Medicine conducted a study on 2 groups of migraine sufferers – both took their normal medication over several weeks of the study. One group had 2x 30 minute massages each week for 5 weeks, the other group had none.
The group that had the regular massages suffered no migraine attacks, slept better and demonstrated higher levels of serotonin versus the other group.
What type of massage can help a migraine?
Deep tissue massage is possible during periods of wellness, though it must be performed by a well-trained and experienced therapist. It will ease through any areas of tight muscle or restricted fascia as a result of the migraine pain
Common areas of tension are the neck and shoulders; a migraine can cause these areas to become solid and as such would benefit from deep, slow strokes. Even by simply holding the weight of the head for you for a few minutes, the muscles in the neck are given enormous relief
Face and skull; tension is also often felt in the jaw and temples. A face massage should never be underestimated for the relaxation it can bring. The 43 muscles in the face can become extremely tense and contorted during an attack and the numerous pressure points in the skull mean that a gentle ‘hair wash’ approach on the skull can feel like heaven
Hands and Feet; as they are less directly related to areas where migraines are felt, massaging hands and feet can be an extremely effective and accessible area to treat when a sufferer is feeling unwell
Pressure points; these 4 simple to remember points on the body are very effective at both relieving an oncoming headache at the first sign, and preventing the initial onset. Apply firm pressure with your thumb for a few seconds
a. Base of the skull.
b. Between the eyebrows
c. Between thumb and index finger
d. Between big toe and second toe (top of the foot)
The right manual therapist will be able to work with you and your comfort zone to work out what, where and how to massage you to help relieve migraine symptoms. It’s about working together not fitting into a prescribed pattern of treatment.
I recommend having a massage soon after your attack has subsided, but also schedule regular inter-migraine massages to prevent attacks, don’t wait until the next horror…