Massage and Migraines

Any kind of pain can be debilitating, and for people who suffer from migraine headaches, pain can disrupt both their personal and professional lives. Whether migraine occurs infrequently or on a regular basis, finding dependable relief is a top priority.

What Relief Can Look Like

Migraine is a complex condition that can be activated by a variety of factors but can also mitigated by a range of treatments. To help them control pain, every migraine sufferer takes some form of medication. From over-the-counter to prescribed medicines: all are on the list when pain strikes or threatens.

An alternative remedy that many find effective but not so many seek out is massage. Massage, including that delivered by a premium massage chair, can help relieve muscle spasms, improving blood flow and circulation, thereby relieving tension and promoting relaxation. 

Ways Massage Can Help

  • Massage eases muscle spasms and tension: Massage in the neck and shoulder regions helps relax taut bands of tissue, loosening the sub-occipitals—those muscles attached to the base of the skull—which cause tension that travels up through the back of the head and into the eye areas, causing pain. 
  • Massage regulates hormones: Hormonal chemical changes can trigger migraines. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can be controlled by massage therapy. At the same time, massage also increases endorphin production and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Massage decreases trigger point pain: Neuromuscular therapy, also known as trigger point therapy, targets hyper-irritable, tender tissue areas that can refer pain to other parts of the body.
  • And it improves circulation: Massage has been shown to increase blood flow, which in turn improves oxygen levels and can help reduce pain.

What Kind and When?

The most favorable therapy seems to be for deep tissue massage between migraine attacks. Because they experience extreme sensitivity to touch, many migraine sufferers find any movement increases pain levels, and deep tissue massage during an attack would be out of the question. Light hand or foot massage during an attack, on the other hand, can help. For many, massaging these areas improves circulation, thus helping to reduce pressure in the head.


For some people, massage is not the right choice. Those with varicose veins, anyone with a recent sprain or fracture, any anyone with nerve injuries or recent radiation or chemotherapy is not suitable. Pregnant women should also consult their doctor before undergoing massage. 

The Growing Movement Toward Massage Treatment for Migraine

For most migraine headache sufferers, massage is a viable and potential alternative, or additional, source of pain relief. Though formal studies are still relatively few, results are encouraging, and new data continues to support massage as an alternative or addition to medications. 

Dawn Buse, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Director of Behavioral Medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center in New York, says, “Many patients find massage therapy helpful, in which case I encourage them to make it a regular part of their treatment plan along with other healthy lifestyle habits, relaxation and self-care activities.”

If you or a loved one suffer from migraine headaches, be sure to consider massage therapy as an effective treatment routine. 

Center, Migraine Relief. “Migraines and Massage: What You Should Know.” 16 Mar. 2016,

Golden, Katie M. “Tackling Migraines Head-On | Massage Therapy Journal.” – American Massage Therapy Association, 23 May 2017,