Children’s Migraine and Tension Headaches: Massage Therapy Solutions
by Carol Baumhardt, Massage Therapist, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, an affiliate of Blanchard Valley Health System
Raise your hand if you enjoy having a headache. Silly, right? Nobody likes the pain, frustration and lost time a headache can bring. Yet many of us suffer from them, including children. The National Headache Foundation reports that 1 in 5 U.S. children ages 5 to 17 are prone to headaches. Fifteen percent of those who are prone have headaches labeled as tension and five percent are diagnosed as migraine.
Among the list of things that can help relieve the symptoms of an active tension headache are massage and stress management. In addition, massage may also help prevent the frequency, duration and intensity.
The causes for a tension headache in your child are similar to what might cause you to experience one:
- Poor sleep. Children should be sleeping enoughconsecutive hours in order for their body to repair and rejuvenate.
- Good and bad stress. Our bodies respond the same way to the anxiety of a big test as to the excitement of the school dance.
- Poor posture. How many hours a day are your kids looking at a phone or spent hunched over their homework? With the cold weather here for a while, notice if their shoulders are elevated trying to generate warmth.
- Repetitive use in daily activities. Are they always throwing a ball with the same arm? How many hours in a day are they playing their instruments? Are they gamers?
Just one, or any combination, of the above can lead to tight, tense muscles—a possible cause for tension headaches. What is a great way to help fatigued muscles? Massage!
Receiving a massage during an active migraine may not be appealing due to possible increased sensitivity to touch, light, smell and sound. However, massage might help people recover from an event. Often an individual is left with muscle tension or tenderness as a residual effect of the migraine. Massage can help address these concerns.
Similar to tension headaches, there is a list of potential triggers for the onset of a migraine. If you know that muscle tension is a trigger for the child in your life diagnosed with migraines, it can be beneficial to seek out massage to help relieve some of the muscle tension. Stress can be another trigger. Massage has a general calming effect and has been proven to reduce cortisol, one of the body’s stress hormones.
While massage can be a great tool for those suffering from tension and migraine headaches, please seek out medical intervention if any of the following occur:
- Pain is waking your child from sleep
- The headache worsens or becomes more frequent
- You notice a change in your child’s personality
- The headache follows an injury
- Your child is vomiting
- Your child notes changes in his or her vision
While you encourage the children in your life to improve their sleeping habits or to adjust their posture, it might also be beneficial to work with a licensed massage therapist to help address restrictions within the soft tissues. Massage and stress management are excellent tools to give to your young loved ones as they continue to navigate into adulthood. After all, no one likes a headache. Speak to your family physician or local massage therapist to find out if massage therapy is right for your child.