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Massages for Tension Headaches

tension headache

Popping pills is a go-to for people suffering from headaches and migraine. But there's another option emerging - massage therapy. Turns out, performing massages to relieve headaches can be a real lifesaver for some people, especially if meds give them more trouble than relief.

But since different massages do different things and target different parts of your body, figuring out the best one for your headache can be tricky. It all depends on which kind of pain you're battling.

Read on to find out which massage can effectively treat migraine and tension headaches.  

What are Chronic Tension Headaches and How to Treat Them?

Tension Headaches

Headaches are pretty common, and the most frequent kind is tension headache. Think of it like a dull ache or tightness, pressing in on both sides of your head, like a band squeezing your skull. Most of us will deal with such headaches at some point.


Tension headaches can stick around for anywhere from half an hour to several days. When muscles tighten up, it causes stiffness and tenderness in the neck, scalp and jaw, which can trigger a tension headache.


Tense muscles in the head and neck are what bring on those tension headaches that are often triggered by:

  • Stress (physical and emotional) 

  • Fatigue or overexertion

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Skipping meals

  • Eyestrain

  • Bad posture

  • Alcohol

  • Caffeine

  • Dehydration

  • Sensory overstimulation such as loud music or bright lights 

  • Sleeping with the neck in a bad position

Chronic Tension Headaches

A persistent tension headache often lasts for 15 days per month and can occur more and more often over time. These headaches stick around and can get in your way of life. Often, the pain can range from a dull ache to a full-blown throb.

Individuals experiencing such headaches often rely on medication to relieve pain. But relying too heavily on painkillers can backfire, leading to what we call a "rebound headache". It's basically like a chronic tension headache on steroids. 

The good news is that tension headaches respond well to massage therapy. So, if you've been diagnosed with a tension headache and want quick, natural relief, going for a relaxation massage could be helpful.

What is the Best Massage for Tension Headaches?

head massage

Image source: Pexels

Generally, getting a remedial massage can help ease muscle tension, calm your nerves, promote relaxation and improve how well you sleep. A head or scalp massage for migraine and chronic headaches can also help relieve stress and possibly boost hair growth. 

With that said, migraine and headaches also respond well to other types of relaxation massages, especially if they are performed by an experienced massage therapist. 

These massage techniques seem really helpful for clients dealing with headache pain:

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep-tissue massage, with its firm pressure and slow strokes, can help relax deep muscles, easing tension that might cause headaches. It uses firm pressure and slow strokes to reach deeper muscle layers, potentially relaxing the ones causing the pain.

One recent study on easing tension headaches suggests that using deep, smooth finger movements on the head relieves muscle spasms that contribute to headache pain.

Trigger Point Massage

Similar to deep-tissue massage, trigger point massage relieves tense muscles by applying direct pressure. The pain sometimes shows up around your eyes or temples. Massage therapists often work those areas and the neck with quick taps during treatment, which can be a real lifesaver for many people.

How Do I Know If My Headache is a Migraine?

Migraines are long-term brain conditions that cause repeated, often severe headaches. Migraine headaches tend to feel like a throbbing or pulsing pain, usually on one side of the head.

Migraine Symptoms

A migraine headache often comes with nausea, vomiting, and a strong sensitivity to light and sound. These attacks can stick around for hours to days. Moreover, the pain can be so intense that it gets in the way of your everyday tasks.

In some cases, people experience a warning sign called an aura before or during a headache. An aura may involve visual issues like flashes of light or blind spots, as well as other disturbances such as tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg and difficulty speaking.

What Causes Migraine Headaches?

Whilst experts don't entirely agree on what causes migraines, one common theory is that it's linked to an overactive bit in the brain that deals with senses. Overly excitable nerve cells send signals to the blood vessels in the brain, making them swell and leading to throbbing migraine pain. 

Additionally, there's often a genetic connection, as migraines tend to run in families. Triggers that can make these overactive cells act up are often are:

  • Medications

  • Certain foods

  • Alcohol and caffeine

  • Sensory stimuli

  • Emotional or physical stress

  • Menstruation or ovulation

  • Monosodium glutamate

  • Changes in hormones

  • Not enough or too much sleep

  • Changes in the weather

Types of Massage for Tension Headache and Migraine Relief

head massage

Image source: Pexels

Recent studies, albeit mostly small scale and in their early stages, suggest massage therapy might be a useful tool for managing migraines. Massage could potentially lessen the severity of symptoms and reduce the number or length of episodes. It may even offer some protection against common triggers like stress or neck pain.

Traditional and Aromatherapy Massage

Traditional massage eases anxiety and encourages relaxation. 

Adding aromatherapy with essential oils, like lavender, can take it to the next level. This type of essential oil can help de-stress, improve sleep, and even lessen migraine symptoms.


Trigger Point Massage

For some people, trigger point therapy can be an excellent option for headache relief. The reason it works is that problems in your muscles can make your head hurt. When you loosen up those muscles with a massage, your chronic headaches tend to get better.


This massage works by applying pressure to specific points on your hands or feet. Like trigger point massage, it taps into the idea that certain areas can influence health and healing in other parts of the body.

Whilst the impact on migraines is still being explored, reflexology at least seems to offer some valuable benefits like deeper relaxation, better sleep, lower stress, and even general pain relief, which can be especially helpful for anyone dealing with migraines.

Thai Massage

Unlike gentle, relaxing Western massages, Thai massage is more active. It uses techniques like pressing muscles, stretching limbs, pulling gently and even rhythmic rocking.

Think of it as one tool you can use to manage migraines, alongside other self-care methods. Remember, always tell your therapist if anything feels uncomfortable during the session.

Hot Stone Therapy

Warm stones have been used for ages to ease pain and discomfort. This type of massage, where warm stones and hands work together, is called hot stone massage. It's known to be super relaxing; studies even show it can help you sleep better long after your session.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Think of your body as a highway for a special fluid called "lymph." Its job is to carry white blood cells and waste around. Lymphatic drainage massage is like gentle traffic control, helping that fluid flow smoothly.

A 2016 study showed that, compared to traditional massages, lymphatic drainage is much better at reducing the frequency of migraines per month.

Massage Your Migraine Away at Siam Soul

Many people don't realise how complicated headaches can be. Each type has its symptoms, reasons for happening, and needs different treatments. Massage can be a helpful addition to managing migraines for some folks. It won't cure them, but it might lessen the pain or make them happen less often.

Struggling with a tension headache or migraine? A relaxing massage might be just what you need for some quick, natural relief! Contact us today.


1. Can you massage out a tension headache?

Studies show massage therapy can be a great way to ease chronic tension headaches without the meds.

2. What pressure point relieves a tension headache?

Pressing specific points on the neck, head, shoulders and hands are known to help relieve headache pain.

3. How do you get rid of a tension headache ASAP?

Sometimes, a hot or cold shower can do wonders for a headache. Taking a break in a quiet room with a cool cloth on your forehead might help too.




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