May 04, 2010

The Benefits of Massage: Pain Relief

By June Luff, CMT


In the United States more and more people, including health care professionals, are turning to massage to complement mainstream health care. Its effects can be physiological and psychological, and the many benefits of massage include relaxation, stress reduction, insomnia, back aches, and pain relief.
We have all experienced aches and pains in our lives, which are no laughing matter. All we want is relief! One of the most common physical aches individuals experience are tension or migraine headaches, so let’s take a closer look at these two types of headaches, respectively.

A tension headache is the most common type of primary headache, and it accounts for nearly 90% of all headaches. The pain can radiate from the forehead (could be tension or sinus), temples, neck, back, or other muscle groups in the body. Approximately 3% of the population has chronic tension-type headaches.
However, statics show in the United States alone, that more than 60% of the 45 million Americans who suffer from chronic headaches suffer from migraines. The disorder can be debilitating and typically results from high stress levels and/or lack of sleep.

Other causes of headaches can include: constipation, other digestive disturbances;
hormone imbalances, and menstrual cycle issues. Fortunately, all of the aforementioned
can benefit from abdominal massage.

As an experienced massage therapist, the key component I employ to develop treatment plans for my clients is an in-depth consultation. Here are some of the questions you should be prepared to discuss:
• Exactly where do you feel the pain?
• How often do you experience headaches? (Frequency can indicate tension or stress headaches).
• On a pain scale of 1 to 10, one being no pain, ten being very painful, where would you say your headache is right now? Where was it when it was at its worst?
• Do you have any problems turning your head from side to side?
• Are you taking any medication for the pain? How recently did you take something? (This is important to know in case your ability to feel has been diminished through pain medication. If so, I know to work with less pressure to prevent bruising).
• Have you ever used heat or cold to treat a headache? Did it work?

How can massage therapy relieve tension and migraine headaches?
When focused on the neck, shoulders, and head, massage can decrease the pain and discomfort brought on by tension or migraine headaches. This approach decreases occurrences of headaches, sleep disturbances, and distress symptoms. It also reduces muscle spasms and trigger points, as well as allows one to maintain a level of relaxation and stress-relief, reducing the chances of stress induced migraines.

After I complete a massage treatment, I offer my clients self-care tips to perform at home and work to help retain the relief that the massage provides for as long as possible. Self-care to reduce headache frequency
Chronic headaches usually result from multiple factors. You can decrease your headaches by reducing factors such as tension in your neck and shoulders, excessive life stress, hormonal imbalances, unexpressed emotions, or toxic reactions to medications or alcohol. Try keeping a headache journal or log to help you identify patterns that may be contributing to your headaches.
Other self-care suggestions include the following:
1. Muscle tension is often the culprit in chronic headaches. Massage is one of the most effective methods of relaxing muscles.
2. Frequent, gentle stretching of the neck and shoulders can also help relieve muscle tension.
3. Exercise, whether aerobic, yoga, tai chi, or some other activity may help reduce
your stress and tension.
4. Drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet can help keep your system
in balance.
5. If you work at a desk, make sure your computer is set up correctly to prevent
eyestrain and strain on your neck muscles. Seek help from your ergonomics department
at work.
6. Stress counseling may help you learn to relax and let go of things you can’t control.
I can refer you to qualified and experienced yoga instructors, nutritionists, and
stress counselors.

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About June Luff, CMT


June Luff is a Nationally Certified and Virginia Licensed Massage Therapist, and is a member of the American Massage Therapy Association.
She utilizes Swedish, Deep Tissue, Myofascial Release, and Reflexology techniques to design a treatment plan specifically for you to bring pain relief, balance and healing to health-minded individuals. You can schedule an appointment at her Herndon office

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