700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Migraine and Tension Headaches: Using Massage to Ease the Pain

Dec 19, 2017
Women getting a massage to relive headaches.

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 your children. The National Headache Foundation reports that 1 in 5 US children ages 5-17 are prone to headaches. Fifteen percent of those who are prone have headaches labeled as tension and five percent are diagnosed as migraine.

Tension Headaches

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 enough consecutive 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 instrument? Are they gamers?

Just one, or any combination, of the above can lead to tight, tense muscles – a possible cause for tension headaches.  And what is a great way to help fatigued muscles? Massage!

Migraine Headaches

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 one 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 or they note changes in their vision
  • Fever

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.

Massage Therapy services are offered through Nationwide Children’s Hospital at both the New Albany Philip Heit Center and the Dublin Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center. Call 614-685-1816 for information on scheduling.

Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Carol Baumhardt, LMT
Massage Therapy

Carol M. Baumhardt, LMT has been a massage therapist since 2007. She holds licenses in both Ohio and Wisconsin and she specializes in chronic pain from repetitive use injuries.

All Topics

Browse by Author

About this Blog

Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.