The Healing Touch: Benefits of Massage
Calm a Headache
Massage prescription: Massage decreases cortisol, the stress hormone that can tighten muscles, triggering a tension headache. Studies show simple neck and shoulder massage reduced both the number of chronic headaches people got and how long each one lasted. Weekly Trager massages decreased medication usage by 44 percent. Even those with hard-to-treat migraines can get relief from weekly craniosacral massages and may also sleep better.
Doctor's orders: Get massages once or even twice a week at first, then less often as you feel better. Choose the Trager or craniosacral technique if you prefer to keep your clothes on during treatments. And be sure that no one but a licensed expert massages your neck -- in rare cases an intense neck massage done incorrectly can make an injury worse or even cause a stroke.
Self-help: Place two tennis balls in a sock. Lie on your back on a flat surface and place the sock at the base of your skull with your chin tucked down. Gently massage your temples and slowly breathe in and out, says Deborah Engen, a licensed massage therapist who has participated in massage studies at the Mayo Clinic. "The trick is to start massaging as soon as the pangs begin. It's easier to treat a mild headache than a severe one."