September 27, 2010

Good Hands Are Good News for Headaches

Massage is the best therapy for tension headaches and migraines, and more people should be hitting our tables instead of reaching for drugs or other remedies, says Boris Prilutsky, a massage instructor and researcher in Los Angeles.

This article is the third in a series of articles about headaches and therapies. The first article is here.

Stress is a main cause of tension headaches. In addition, most people spend hours working on computers -- in static postures that accumulate muscle tension in the upper thorax and cervicals.

“In most cases we are addressing tensions in the neck , upper back, and TMJ muscles, so we are not just treating the symptoms of headaches but the cause,” says Prilutsky, a massage therapist and researcher with 38 years. He is an NCTMB continuing education provider.

A client presenting for treatment of headaches needs to be assessed carefully, Prilutsky said. Watch out for potential symptoms of other illnesses such as fever, or a sudden intense onset with no prior history of headaches. Those people need a doctor’s evaluation for infections or other serious conditions before trying massage.

But most clients will present with well-documented and already diagnosed headaches, he says. He advises not to be too concerned about the type of headaches and focus rather on the precipitating factors, such as constant muscular higher resting tones or pathological muscular tensions at neck, upper back and TMJ regions. Sternocleidomastoid headaches, trapezial headaches, irritation of the vertebral artery, etc. can be tracked back to our ever-growing population of people who spend too much time staring at screens, clicking or typing. A history of whiplashes, contact sports, or constant stress increases the intensity and frequency of these headaches, he says.

Boris says massage reduces the upper body tension immediately reducing headache intensity or “completely eliminating headaches.”

“To sustain these results clients need about 12 to 15 treatments. Also it is important to note that people diagnosed with migraines often actually have tension headaches,” Prilutsky said.

With true classic migraines, massage can alleviate most symptoms by balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, which leads to a normalization of blood vessel dilation believed to create migraine pain.

For some fabulous techniques to ban headaches, check out Prilutsky’s videos. YouTube ranks his as the most-watched self-massage videos. Techniques include acupressure, lymphatic, Russian sports massage and Swedish styles in the treatment of headaches. For a sample of his videos for massage therapists, try:

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