If you suffer from headaches, perhaps you should consider treating yourself to a massage. Though massages may not cure headaches, researchers found a 40-minute massage does help patients with chronic tension-type headaches.
Almost 40 percent of people report sporadically experiencing tension-type headaches, characterized by a “pressing” or “tightening” pain of mild to moderate intensity on both sides of the head. An additional 2.2 percent suffer from chronic tension-type headaches, dealing with this debilitating pain at least 15 days out of every month. Researchers recently measured the effects of massage on people with chronic headaches and found that the benefits are numerous, even if casino a bit short-lived.
In the study, 11 patients with chronic headaches reported to a treatment center on four separate occasions. On two of their visits, the patients received a randomly assigned treatment–either a 40-minute manual massage of their head, neck, and shoulder muscles or a 40-minute placebo application of an untuned ultrasound machine. The researchers measured key aspects of the patients” headaches immediately before and after each treatment, as well as once again 24 hours after a treatment session.
The results showed that each patient experienced increased heart rate variability, improved mood, and decreased sensitivity to pain immediately after receiving a massage treatment. Patients who received the placebo treatment showed no changes in their symptoms. According to the researchers, “Chronic tension-type headache is associated with an increase in anxiety, depression, and an impairment of anger control. In the current study, the massage apparently influenced the patients” mood state by decreasing the emotional tension and anger in patients with CTTH.” However, these beneficial effects of the massages did not carry over to 24 hours after the treatment. By that time, all measured factors had returned to pretreatment levels.
While this work does not suggest that massages can prevent or cure your headaches, they may be able to alleviate some of the unpleasant symptoms associated with those headaches. Another study has shown that increased pain sensitivity is a warning sign for the onset of a tension-type headache.
Even if it will only temporarily relieve your headache pain, at least now you have a medical excuse to ask your significant other for a nice, long massage.