Relieve Migraine Pain and Tension with Muscle Therapy
Migraines, a neurological condition that is frequently characterized by intense, debilitating headaches, are crippling. Whether you are facing migraine-related nausea, vomiting, difficulty speaking, numbness, tingling, or sensitivity to light and sound, your muscles are under tremendous stress and tension. Treating muscle tension may not impede the onset of a migraine, but it can alleviate many of the painful symptoms. Over time, retraining certain muscles can reduce migraine intensity and eliminate muscular tension and stress.
Phase 1: Premonitory Stage & Your Neck, Traps, & Lower Back.
During the premonitory stage of a migraine, many feel fatigue, irritability, neck stiffness, frequent yawning, food cravings, and mood changes (depression, irritability, or euphoria) that last up to 24 hours. Try to breathe and remain calm. Maintaining your composure and staying relaxed during the “warning” stage can dictate the next phases of your migraine.
To combat these migraine symptoms, target areas of your body that carry the most stress such as the muscles that run along base of your skull and into your neck, your middle and upper traps along with your lower back. Applying gradual pressure to these regions relieves pain, promotes more oxygen to the brain, relaxes your body, and elevates your mood.
Phase 2: Aura Stage & Staying Cool.
The second stage, the aura stage, is experienced by approximately 25-30% of migraine sufferers. Described as a series of sensory disturbances, aura happens shortly before the “attack” phase of a migraine. These disturbances range from flashing lights, seeing sparks, bright dots, and zig zags to tingling on one side of the body, tunnel vision, or an inability to speak clearly and can last between 20-60 minutes.
When and if this stage hits, find a cool, dark room to rest and breathe. Regulating your body temperature and your light exposure can prove critical during this stage. Avoid hot or cold places if possible as the body may view those extreme temperatures as a need to flight or fight.
Once in a comfortable space, find the areas that hurt or feel sensitive and use light to moderate pressure to ease the tension. Intense head pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light begin to increase during this phase. Applying a combination of pressure and deep, slow, deliberate breathing can help the body feel in control and sometimes thwart the intensity of the next migraine phase.
Stage 3: Attack Stage & Your Back and Hips.
The headache or attack stage of a migraine occurs when a person experiences severe pain on one, both sides, or all over the head. Typically described as pulsating, throbbing, perforating, or pounding, each sensation can be paralyzing and become worse with movement, light, or sound. Lasting from four hours to three days, these headaches are so intense that many feel sick and vomit during the attack stage.
Comfortable and relaxed body positions (reclined, laying on your back, resting on your side, or in the fetal position) during this stage of your migraine are essential. The natural curve of your lower back, the curve of your neck, and the alignment of your hips all influence how well you rest during this time. Introducing gradual pressure during the headache stage helps relax the body regions that are affected by the extreme pains you feel in your head. A little pressure in these areas go a long way in helping you get through the storm.
STAGE 4: Resolution Stage & Sleep.
The onset of migraines has specific indicators, but the resolution phase of the migraine can vary. Most attacks will slowly subside while others come to a sudden stop. Once your reach the resolution stage of your migraine, many find that a couple hours of sleep can be enough to end the attack.
When you find yourself in or approaching this stage, turn of all electronics, create a positive sleep environment by darkening the room, and practice relaxation and breathing techniques. If you’re a back sleeper, place pillows under your knees and support your neck with a rolled-up wash cloth. If you prefer sleeping on your side, then place a pillow between your knees and snuggle up with another pillow like hugging a stuffed animal.
STAGE 5: Postdrome Stage & Recovery
The final stage of a migraine is often described as the “hangover” and often mirrors the physical and mental symptoms of the premonitory stage. The inability to concentrate, lack of comprehension, and fatigue make this stage one of the most frustrating and can last up to 48 hours.
This is the most important time to listen to your body. Some parts of your body may need heat to ease tension, other parts may require cold packs to reduce inflammation while other regions may mandate pressure and massage. It’s critical to heed the message each region is sending to (1) care for your muscles and (2) thwart another migraine.
Migraine triggers vary from lack of sleep, food, water, or minerals to genetics. Using pressure to target the tension in soft tissue and muscles that are put under strain before, during, and after migraines is key. Pressure isn’t a cure all, but it helps your body combat the current attack to leave you feeling more rested, relaxed, and energized post-attack, and can avoid the next episode.