Have you been searching for a massage therapist who really understands the neck and shoulder pain that can trigger your headaches and migraines? I was lucky enough to stumble upon one many years ago, who dramatically helped me be less sensitive to barometric changes. As it happened this woman was a migraineur herself and had become educated on many tricks and tips that I became the beneficiary of. But until now I hadn’t come across another massage therapist specializing in migraines and didn’t know how to explain to my clients how to find such a miracle worker.
Leading up to the Chronic Headache and Migraine Summit, I interviewed Emily Boudwin, a neuromuscular massage therapist who specializes in helping people who suffer from migraines and tension headaches. Hallelujah!
My first question was how can someone find a local massage therapist to help them with migraines?
When you’re looking for a massage therapist, ask them about their experience working with headache and migraine sufferers. Instead of always doing a full-body massage, they should be able to focus on a problem area and get down to the root of what is actually causing the pain.
A good massage therapist would ask you some questions about your headache:
- Where did it start?
- Did it start when you got up from sleeping or did it happen throughout the day and worsen?
- Did you wake up with headache still there?
It’s important that a practitioner ask these things because small factors, like changing a pillow, can explain neck pain. Emily saw one client that had a headache on just one side of her head and it turned out it was due to chewing on just one side due to having issues on the other side.
Finding the cause matters from a muscular standpoint just as much as it matters for internal biological stress!
So what is Neuromuscular Massage?
Neuromuscular massage technique applies slow and targeted pressure over trigger points to help correct biomechanical dysfunction. Like many massage styles, the goal is to restore range of motion, eliminate pain and improve posture.
One of the key areas that causes pain is the sternocleidomastoid muscle that connects your sternum and clavicle to the area behind your ear. It’s a neck stabilizer muscle so if you have poor hip posture, you’re putting a lot of pressure on that muscle and making it work harder than it should. If you have trouble turning your head, this muscle may be in need of massage and that’s something you can do yourself with instructions Emily provides on her website.
It’s important when you’re massaging yourself, or when you’re being massaged, that you don’t take on too much pain. On a pain scale (0-10 with 10 being the highest), you never go over an 8 with a massage therapist because that could cause harm. When doing self-massage, you should only go to a maximum pain level of 5-6.
As an example of what to expect, Emily wants to see her clients more often at first to build upon what you’ve started in your first session so your body doesn’t reverse your progress.
After that, Emily moves to working with clients every week, then every other week, and sometimes further apart depending on their needs. Different underlying causes need to be addressed so you should look for a therapist that gives you homework because some things need to be addressed at home between sessions.
This self-care prevents and keeps headaches away.
Many people are surprised to find that headache pain can start with the feet. Shoes with any heel tip you forward and that puts a strain on all of your muscles and can cause migraines/headaches. That doesn’t mean you should go straight from wearing heels to wearing barefoot shoes immediately though. If you’re wearing high heels all of the time, drop down no more than ½” heel at a time because you can do muscle damage making that drastic of a change all at once.
Your muscles and tendons have shortened so you have to take baby steps. 25% of our muscles are at ankles & below and they should have as much movement as our hands.
There are a lot of relatively small changes you can make like this to improve your headaches and your well-being. Emily recommended picking up a copy of both Move Your DNA and Dynamic Aging by Katy Bowman to learn more about them.
As fabulous as Emily is, of course, not everyone lives close enough to Emily to work with her and if you live outside of the Boise area you can find a neuromuscular massage therapist in your area at www.nmtcenter.com. You should be sure to interview your therapist the same way you would interview your doctor to make sure you are a good fit for one another and that they truly understand the problems that you’re having.