So many of us experience headaches after receiving massages, and this isn’t uncommon at all. The pressure that our masseuse uses on our back and neck can often cause tension headaches in some people, so it’s important to know how to fix the problem to avoid future headaches down the road.
If you follow these 10 tips, your headache will go away within an hour or two and you’ll be able to relax with no pain at all!
1) Adjust Your Expectations
If you’re suffering from a message-related headache, you may want to prepare yourself mentally. Some people find that after receiving a massage they experience pain, nausea or anxiety—and these symptoms can sometimes last for up to 24 hours.
So before your next massage, try thinking about how you’ll feel afterward. Write down specific expectations and realize it’s OK if they don’t come true—or consider taking a different approach and receiving a lower-intensity treatment (like acupressure).
2) Drink Water
If you’re dehydrated, it could be causing your headache. In fact, drinking enough water every day can improve headaches by up to two-thirds in just 24 hours.
You need to drink 8 cups of water a day. Some other helpful tips include drinking caffeine in moderation, avoiding salt and alcohol (both dehydrate you), and getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
While there are other ways to rid yourself of a headache after a massage, these are some simple fixes that work in just a few minutes!
3) Try Cold Therapy
The most obvious way to ease a headache after a massage is cold therapy. The head and neck region are rich in nerve endings, which react to pressure placed on them.
Deep tissue massage can cause small muscle tears around these sensitive regions, causing both bruising and inflammation (and headaches). By applying ice directly to your headache, you’ll numb some of these sensitive nerves and help reduce pain.
Try holding an ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables against your head for 15-20 minutes—it should relieve some of your pain. If not, try again with colder temperatures for longer periods of time.
4) Minimize Screen Time
Excessive screen time can also be a headache trigger. Whether you’re working at your computer or watching TV, turn off all screens at least an hour before bedtime. That way, your eyes have time to adjust to lower light levels and your body will better be able to distinguish between when it’s time to sleep and when it’s not.
If you’re in an environment with lots of blue light—like an office with overhead fluorescent lights—consider purchasing blue-light blocking glasses; they won’t completely get rid of headaches but they can help minimize their appearance.
5) Take Supplements
There are plenty of natural products that can be used to combat headaches and reduce pain. Try taking a magnesium supplement or an extra dose of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) for temporary headache relief. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements, however.
And remember, these techniques aren’t designed to replace regular medical treatment! If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic headaches, consider adding fish oil supplements to your diet; studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent migraines.
If you don’t suffer from chronic headaches but are still having a tough time dealing with occasional migraines, consider drinking some herbal tea—studies have shown that chamomile is an effective home remedy for occasional migraines.
6) Understand Dehydration
Most headaches are caused by dehydration. The Mayo Clinic describes dehydration as a lack of fluid in your body. It’s typically defined as less than two liters of total fluid for men and one liter for women.
While you can’t just drink a headache away, preventing or treating dehydration with proper hydration before, during and after massage can go a long way toward making sure you feel great afterward.
Keep yourself well-hydrated with plenty of water before your massage begins, try to drink water during your session (but don’t overdo it) and keep up good hydration habits for at least 24 hours following your appointment to make sure you’re ready for your next session without running into any problems.
7) Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation helps you consciously relax each part of your body. Lie on a flat surface, preferably somewhere quiet and soothing like your bed or couch. Your head should be resting comfortably.
Start by clenching your toes for about five seconds, then releasing. Move up through each muscle group in turn: feet, calves, thighs, hips, lower back, middle back, upper back and shoulders.
Pause at each muscle group for about five seconds before moving on to the next one until you’ve relaxed your whole body—about 10 minutes total is recommended as an effective period of time to practice progressive muscle relaxation.
8) Sleep Well Before the Appointment
Going to a massage appointment after an exhausting day at work will almost guarantee that you’ll have a headache for your next appointment. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an appointment after a long day, but make sure you get enough sleep so that your body and mind can be relaxed and refreshed before hitting up your favorite masseuse.
There is also anecdotal evidence that eating too much salt before or during a massage can cause headaches.
While there hasn’t been any formal studies on these claims, it’s certainly worth avoiding in order to prevent post-massage pain and make sure you get as much relaxation out of your treatment as possible.
9) Be Mindful About Food Sensitivities or Allergies
Paying attention to how you feel after eating is a great way to get a sense of what your body might be sensitive or allergic to. Do you feel bloated, fatigued, and irritable? That could mean an intolerance for dairy or gluten.
Does it take days for your bowel movements to normalize? Try eliminating sugar and carbs from your diet. If you’re still not sure what’s causing symptoms, talk with a nutritionist about allergy testing or other tests that can help identify food sensitivities.
Often, food sensitivities are behind unpleasant symptoms like headaches, joint pain, irritability and fatigue—but they can easily be treated by simply avoiding certain foods and looking at portion sizes when consuming others.
10) Focus on the Journey, Not the Destination
Even though many people have had success with getting rid of a headache after a massage, remember that your personal experience may not be everyone’s. If you follow these top 10 tips but still can’t shake it, try going for a walk or doing yoga instead.
Because when you focus on what can go wrong instead of what can go right, you set yourself up for failure before you even begin.
You know how they say no one gets an A+ in life? Well, it’s just as true that no one gets a permanent headache after a massage! So don’t worry about either outcome — just enjoy all of those smooth muscles on your back and neck without worrying about headaches later.
You can spend a lot of money on massages and natural supplements, but your first line of defense should always be rest. When you feel a headache coming on, get some sleep or take a nap. You’ll probably wake up feeling better and ready to tackle your day! (Easier said than done for some, we know.)