by Nick Lakoff, CMT
When migraines hit they can be a debilitating condition. Some get them once in a blue moon, others once a month and for a few unfortunate souls it’s a daily event. There is a lot we still don’t fully understand about Migraines such as their underlying causes, triggers and mechanisms. Here’s what we do know:
- Migraines are a neurological disorder that usually affects one side of the brain.
- The pain associated with a migraine is much more severe than that of a headache.
- Associated symptoms are nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and/or sound.
- Prior to a migraine, sufferers often perceive an aura, a visual, sensory or motor disturbance.
- Migraines are believed to be caused by a mixture of environmental and genetic factors.
- Worldwide 10% of the people will suffer from a migraine at some point in their lives.
- Fluctuating hormone levels are believed to have a role in the cause of some migraines.
- Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to suffer from migraines.
- Stress and tension are important triggers causing migraines.
Most people who have experienced a migraine can attest to mind numbing effects of one. Most people will sleep theirs off with little or no residual effects. Others have to deal with them on a more regular basis. Often they turn to over the counter medicine to deal with them while others have such intense symptoms that they are prescribed powerful medication for their symptoms but as with many drugs they sometimes have side effects. These side effects, such as drowsiness and impaired mental functioning will cause some to seek more alternative treatments.
Early in my massage therapy career I started to treat clients suffering from chronic migraines. One client in particular, I’ll call her Sarah, would come to see me once a month because of her menstrual cycle induced migraines. I would prepare for her sessions by dimming the lights in the treatment room and lowering the volume of the music (some clients need absolute silence). Most of our sessions would comprise of my massaging her scalp but also her neck and shoulder muscles. I would take great care in making any maneuvers gentle and sweeping. Being very sensitive to the pain she was experiencing made it a personal challenge for me to bring her some relief. Thankfully I was always able to either completely stop the migraine or significantly reduce its effects. Very often she would fall asleep during the session offering her a welcome rest and escape from the pain.
Although my observations are not scientific in any way, I have come to believe that the massage strokes that I perform seem to interfere with the electromagnetic storms in the brain that occur during a migraine. I also believe that my own electromagnetic energy could have a positive influence in these cases. Regardless, massage of migraine sufferers offers them an alternative and best of all no side effects other than positive health benefits.
Nick Lakoff is a certified practitioner in the following disciplines: Swedish Massage, Sports Massage, Reflexology, Acupressure, Myo-Fascial Release, Massage for Pregnancy, Swedish Chair Massage, Hot Stone Massage and Reiki.