Headaches and the Healing Practice of Massage

I have learnt much from my patients about the most effective ways to treat headaches. There are many different root causes that result in a headache and understanding the cause of the symptoms is crucial to be able to effectively offer relief.

Tension headaches:

This type of headache can have a variety of triggers: muscular, tendon, or ligament injury to the head and neck, tension in the jaw head and neck, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, trigger points, contraction of the muscles around the eyes with stress and upper cross syndrome (aka posture).

These headaches are very receptive to Remedial massage and Direct myofascial release.

Vascular Headaches:

Vascular headaches can be awfully painful. I find it is best to wait and treat after the acute phase has passed.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage helps fluid to drain via a pumping action to the lymph nodes; treatment with MLD will consist of weekly treatment over a few months.


These predominantly, but not exclusively, affect women. There are 2 phases:

  • Vasoconstriction: aura with possible visual symptoms and dizziness
  • Vasodilation phase: pressure is exerted onto the vessels walls and meninges creating acute pain. 

Current research suggests a link to fluid and molecular waste build up with insufficient lymphatic flow limiting the clearing of this waste. This 'back up' of fluid constricts the space and triggers the migraine. I have found using manual lymphatic drainage very beneficial in reducing or ceasing migraines altogether.

Essential oils Clary Sage, basil and peppermint are beneficial oils to aid in a treatment.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage treatment (MLD) will consist of weekly treatment over a few months.

Cluster Headaches:

This is a rare variety of recurrent vascular headache which affects men more than women, with pain so acute it can awaken the sufferer from sleep.

Treatment is most effective when applied to the muscle structures surrounding the base of the skull, and shoulders and their surroundings. I have found basil and peppermint oil very beneficial to help bring homeostasis (balance) back to the body.

Sinus Headaches:

Sinus headaches are caused by congestion in the sinus passages due to allergies, infection, other causes of inflammation or obstruction (polyps etc).

I have also seen some amazing results using Manual Lymphatic Drainage to help drain the congested passages in the chronic phase. Aromatherapy is also helpful, peppermint, pine and eucalyptus are most useful as these three oils are great natural decongestants.


- Michael Wilby


Michael S. Wilby

Dip. Remedial Massage | Dip. Aromatherapy, Dip. Reflexology
• Therapeutic • Sports • Lymphatic Drainage • Hot Stones
ATMS No. 18787

Address: 256 Henry Parry Driveو Wyomingو NSW 2250