Long before I had any idea what living with chronic headaches was like, I had a desire to help people who suffered with them. My older brother was diagnosed with cluster headaches before he turned 20 and I had witnessed his excruciating pain on several occasions. I watched how the headaches effected his life. I noticed that he tried not to talk about it, but that it was clear from his appearance when he was back in a headache cycle.
I decided to leave my job in corporate America and train as a massage therapist. I studied a wide variety of methods and am certified in several pain management therapies including Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) and Myofascial Release (MFR). My specialty – headache treatments. Yeah, a little ironic.
Using these modalities, I can honestly say that I was able to end a client’s migraine headache in progress on several occasions. I once had a client call me at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning for treatment. I was able to successfully bring a cluster headache cycle to the end, but was left wondering, was it ending anyway?
Neuromuscular Therapy and Myofascial Release: Can they cure NDPH or your chronic headaches?
There was a time when I would have answered absolutely yes to this question. At this point in my life, after having NDPH for 4 years, I have to answer – maybe. It depends. It’s worth a try. These therapies will very likely help you manage and minimize the pain to some extent.
Neuromuscular therapy targets trigger points in the muscles. It is a deep tissue massage and can be a little painful for some people. The therapist works on an individual muscle or muscle group (completely from muscle origin to insertion), not just the trigger point.
What is a trigger point?
- Active trigger point: actively refers pain either locally or to another location (most trigger points refer pain elsewhere in the body along nerve pathways). An active trigger point in your neck or shoulder can refer pain to your head, jaw or face.
- Latent trigger point : does not actively refer pain (yet), but may refer pain when under pressure or strain.
Here is a video from an Neuromuscular Therapy trainer. This is a general description of a version of NMT that he created.
Myofascial Release appears more general and does not treat trigger points directly. The therapist will use their hands and arms to soften and warm the myofascia, followed by careful stretching. Think of fascia as the plastic wrap that holds everything in place in your body. Myofascia is the fascia of the muscles. This is usually not uncomfortable. (It is my personal favorite as a therapist and a client, because you feel great for a longer period of time then you would after a simple therapeutic massage.
The following video will show you a little bit about MyoFascial Release. Unfortunately, the video does not focus on the neck and back, which would be addressed in a headache treatment. Not all therapists will be this thorough in evaluating your pain history and some may combine myofascial release techniques into a more traditional massage.
If you are considering either of these therapies to treat NDPH or chronic headaches, be sure that you find a highly qualified, licensed massage therapist. This is not part of basic massage therapy training. A therapist needs to take additional courses to obtain a certificate in these therapies.
If you have any questions for me regarding Neuromuscular Therapy or Myfascial Release for chronic headaches, please feel free to ask!