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What type of massage helps with headaches?

While many different types of massage can often help with headache relief, there are a couple of different massage techniques that we find to be more effective than others. These two techniques include deep tissue massage and trigger point therapy.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage does exactly what it says. It targets the deeper tissues and muscles. This is different than Swedish massage - the most common type of massage - because Swedish massages are generally lighter in touch and are used mostly for relaxation and stress reduction.

Deep tissue massage can definitely be more uncomfortable than the typical Swedish massage, but it is typically more effective when it comes to headaches.

Axon Health massage therapist doing trigger point to patient's trapezius muscle

Trigger Point

Trigger point therapy is actually a technique that many different manual providers use. It is often used by massage therapists, but is also sometimes used by chiropractors and physical therapists as well.

What is a trigger point? A trigger point is a focal area of a taught band of muscle that refers pain somewhere else. Put simply, it's a "knot" that creates a reproducible and recognizable pain in another area of your body. For example, trigger points in your suboccipital muscles can refer pain to your ear or into your head (see photo below). A trigger point in your scalene muscles can refer pain down your arm.

suboccipital muscle trigger point pain referral

Trigger point therapy is a soft tissue technique that specifically targets these trigger points and helps relieve their pain pattern. If you have a trigger point that is causing a headache, relief from this trigger point is often achieved fairly quickly in the first session, but may require a few appointments to get longer lasting results.

When to Seek Care

If you're having headaches, seeking the care of a massage therapist is often one of the best conservative care approaches you can take. There are often less side effects than other forms of headache treatment. We typically recommend trying massage therapy (more specifically, someone who practices deep tissue or trigger point) as one of the first approaches to helping headaches.

If you're looking for a massage therapist that practices both of these techniques, our own massage therapist, Maria, is ready to help! (And she comes to you!) Click here to see her availability!


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