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HeadWay, Issue #144 -- Massage and a Hidden World of Treatments
July 21, 2016

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In this issue:

Massage and a Hidden World of Treatments

Don't miss these articles...

Say what?! Lymphatic drainage therapy

Do you believe in the service that HeadWay provides to those with migraine, cluster, and other types of headache, as well as their doctors, family, and friends? Consider sponsoring HeadWay with a one or two line ad. For more information, visit this page.

Massage and a Hidden World of Treatments

Migraine advocates, doctors, specialists... do you know what we just love? Clinical trials. Numbers, statistics - words like "double-blind" and "controlled" - that's what keeps the world spinning, baby.

But there is a whole world of treatments out there that is very difficult to measure. For example, there could be great treatments that no one is interested in studying, for whatever reason. Or treatments that don't have enough financial backing to get those expensive trials done.

There are also treatments that are very difficult to measure because of the "placebo effect". If the patient knows they're getting a certain treatment, that can affect the results.

If you have a drug, it's usually fairly easy to substitute one for another of the same colour in the capsule. But think about something like massage. You can vary the type of massage somewhat, but it's pretty difficult to make someone think they're getting a massage when they aren't!

Various types of massages have suffered from the lack of good trials. Also, few massages have achieved the super-star status of certain stretches (think "yoga"), for example. Massage just sounds too mundane to get the marketing behind it.

But don't be fooled. Massage has helped many migraine and headache patients. Not just because it relaxes them and helps them cope. No, massage does a number of complex things for the body - many things we don't yet fully understand.

You might have heard how important massage is for injuries, or stress, or back pain. But did you know that massage might help you with digestive problems? Joint pain? Depression?

Unfortunately, as we already talked about, the science of massage is woefully lacking. And that includes the science for special massage techniques (which we really don't have time to get into today!).

So is it really worth it to pull out your hard earned money and give it to someone who can give you a massage? I think it may be very worth it, but here are a few things to think about first:
  1. Make sure you're not at risk. Massage may not be so great for someone on blood thinners, or people with serious wounds or health problems. DO talk to your doctor first, and discuss the specific type of massage you're considering.
  2. Keep a headache/migraine diary. Measure how much massage helps you. Because of the possible benefits in patients with depression, consider that too. And if you can't see any major benefits after a while, but you just enjoy getting a massage, that's fine. Try this paper version or this app.
  3. Try a Swedish Massage. Sounds exotic, doesn't it? Well, you might be disappointed to learn that this is just common massage. But it may actually do you more good than the "advanced" massages you pay more money for, or hear amazing claims for.
  4. If you can, find someone with advanced training. Not someone who took a night class, or read 5 books. Find out where they got their training. Depending on where you live, an actual certified "massage therapist" should have several hundred hours of training from a recognized school.
Although I do encourage people to "follow the science", we also shouldn't completely write off treatments like massage that are notoriously difficult to study. You might find that a basic massage can do a lot for your quality of life.

Massage at Headache and Migraine News

Don't miss these articles...

Say what?! Lymphatic drainage therapy

Lymphatic draining refers to the natural function of the lymphatic system in the body ("lymph" is a fluid that circulates through the system). Lymphatic drainage therapy (LDT) is a type of light massage designed to help this system work better. A study published last month found that migraine patients found some improvement after an eight week series of treatments. Read the abstract here: The efficacy of lymphatic drainage and traditional massage in the prophylaxis of migraine: a randomized, controlled parallel group study.

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