Results of a 2015 study into the effects of traditional Thai massage on sufferers of chronic tension headaches have been published, revealing positive results.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache – coming with mild to severe pain, and generally classified into ‘episodic’ and ‘chronic’. This latest study (carried out at the Bamnet Narong Hospital in Chaiyaphum Province, Thailand) focused on treating chronic tension headache sufferers. Patients are ordinarily prescribed acetaminophen, aspirin, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories to treat such headaches.
In this study, sixty patients were divided into two groups. The treatment group received a 45 minute traditional Thai massage twice per week for 4 weeks. The other group (the control group) was prescribed amitriptyline over the same period. Outcome measures were evaluated in weeks 2, 4 and followed up in week 6.
The Thai massage treatment focused on the head, neck and shoulder area and followed pressure points on the shoulders, then both sides of the upper back, the area connecting the neck and the shoulders, the tips of the shoulders, the back of the head, the middle line of head, and the forehead.
The main outcome measures examined were pain, tissue hardness, pressure pain threshold, and heart rate variability. The results showed a statistically significant decrease in headache pain intensity for the group receiving Thai massage at different assessment time points and a statistically significant difference between the Thai massage group and the control group at each assessment time point. The superiority of massage over amitriptyline was also identified for other variables. As for tissue hardness, the value for the Thai massage group was significantly lower than that of the control group at week 4. Additionally, the pressure pain threshold of the group receiving massage increased significantly and was significantly higher than that of the control group. These results were consistent with a 2014 study into the effects of Thai traditional massage on headache and migraine sufferers.
The authors consider several explanations, including that the Thai massage stimulates blood and lymph circulation as well as the sympathetic nervous system through exerting deep and gentle pressure on the skin and muscles. As a result, the flow of nutrients to tissues is enhanced, and the discretion of toxins and residual substances inside the body improves, thereby reducing swelling and pain. Another possibility they consider is called the gate control theory – essentially that the exertion of pressure on the skin and muscles stimulates pressure receptors and inhibiting the transmission of pain perception at the spinal cord or the ‘gate’.
The authors concluded from the findings that traditional Thai massage “seems to be an effective therapy for enhancing the function of the parasympathetic nervous system and other stress-related variables as well as reducing chronic tension headaches”. So if you find yourself in London and suffering with a headache, come and see us at Thai Kosai!