Massage: An Ancient Cultural Experience

A civilization famous for its spa culture is that of the ancient Romans, a sophisticated, essential part of their health and social interaction. 

A critical element of a spa experience is massage therapy. Advise your massage therapist that you suffer from migraines. They will tailor the session, focusing on massaging blood flow away from the head, to distribute it away from where it congests in your head and contributes to your pain. 

If one of your triggers is smell, advise the massage therapist beforehand so they have time to clear their studio of any incense, aroma diffusers. Using an unscented massage oil is best. 

I learned not to be massaged by a smoker. Tar residue on fingers infuses the massage oil that transfers onto your skin. It will take several showers with soap and a solid scrub to remove all the oil. 

Do you knead your own bread dough? You’ll recognize some of the same movements – the pressure from the heel of the hand, the stretching of tissues between the fingers, the rolling of muscles, the pummeling, the twisting and pulling into opposite directions. 

And what are some of the reasons a massage—be it a 90-minute full-body session or a 15-minute local treatment of one area—will make you feel better?

I grew up in the country, miles outside a village, and our family doctor taught me, as a young teen, how to massage my mother’s head when she suffered her frequent migraine attacks. Quite often, the massage relieved her pain for hours, whereas the painkillers did not. 

What happens during exercise? All the movements you make during an exercise session—including an ordinary walk—move oxygen-rich blood and other liquids all over your body and carry blood filled with wastes to the various organs that detoxify your tissues and help evacuate them. A massage does much of the same work passively. 

If one part of your body is out of joint due to a false move, a massage will stretch tissues back to their proper position. When one of my dogs was hobbling on three legs because he had injured himself during rambunctious play with my other dog, I ran my fingers along his affected hind leg from the hip joint down to the toes. Since he didn’t wince in pain, I stretched his leg into various positions so anything out of place would hopefully fall back into place. I rubbed, stretched, and pulled muscles, tendons, and ligaments and flexed and contracted his leg into various positions. In other words, he got a good massage, which fixed whatever had gone wrong since half an hour later, he was running around using all four legs. 

If any part of your body tenses due to repeated motion, especially in your upper neck and the back of your shoulders, a massage therapist feels these areas and knows how to relieve tension. 

Tools of the trade consist mainly of warm sheets and blankets (changed with each client), towels, oils so fingers can slide on your skin without chafing, warmed stones placed on various areas – and more. Soft music is usually played to soothe you into a more relaxed state. 

There are various types of massages that use different levels of pressure. Ask the therapist to describe the different techniques. It’s your massage; let the therapist know your preference. 

Try different kinds of massage. A friend of mine had a head massage during a trip to Hong Kong. He said he had no idea his head was composed of so many parts. He also favors one mall over all the others because this one offers easy chairs with a massage option. Where there were two chairs, there are now at least a dozen scattered about that mall! Every little bit helps!

A massage recalibrates you, wipes away the stresses in your body, reminds you what it feels like to feel healthy, and teaches you how you are supposed to feel! What a pleasant motivator to leave no stone unturned in your path toward significant migraine pain relief!


  • Carla Piringer

    Related to noted medical professionals, the author was afflicted with an inherited excruciating migraine condition, followed traditional medical and alternative therapies and has lived migraine-free for over 35 years. She shares her doctor-recommended method in her book, hoping to inspire sufferers to find significant pain relief.

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