Massage May Reduce Chronic Tension Headaches

By Body Sense Staff
[Body Talk]

Can massage therapy reduce chronic tension headaches? Yes. And when muscles of the head and neck are included in the massage protocol, the work becomes even more effective at squashing tension headache pain.  

A case series published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork investigated whether massage therapy interventions for chronic tension-type headaches (CTTH) were more effective when muscles of the anterior neck, jaw, and cranium were included.

Four female clients suffering CTTH received six predetermined massage therapy interventions for 45 minutes each over a period of three weeks. Two subjects received interventions addressing shoulder, posterior neck, and occiput muscles; the other two subjects received interventions addressing the same areas, as well as the sternocleidomastoid, scalene, temporalis, and masseter muscles. The treatment consisted of myofascial trigger point release, neuromuscular therapy, and consideration of central sensitization mechanisms present in CTTH.

All four study subjects experienced a reduction in headache frequency, and three subjects reported continued improvements after study completion. The subjects who received jaw, neck, and head massage had greater decreases in headache frequency and headache disability inventory scores. These results suggest that including neck, jaw, and head muscles in massage treatment strategies for chronic tension headaches may increase effectiveness of the treatment.  

If you are a headache sufferer, be sure to talk to your practitioner about these findings.