To complement the Research Reports in the February 2016 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.

thai massage for headache

Two sessions of Thai massage per week for four weeks reduced the issues associated with chronic tension-type headaches, according to recent research.

The study, “A randomized controlled trial on the effectiveness of court-type traditional Thai massage versus amitriptyline in patients with tension-type headaches,” involved 60 people ages 18 to 65 who had been diagnosed with chronic tension-type headaches (CTTH).

 

Medication vs. Thai Massage

These subjects were randomly assigned to either the treatment group or the control group. Those assigned to the control group were prescribed 25 milligrams of amitriptyline once a day before bedtime for four weeks. Subjects assigned to the treatment group received a 45-minute session of court-type traditional Thai massage (CTTM) twice a week for four weeks.

According to the study’s authors, CTTM “applies pressure on specific points along the meridian lines using polite gestures, since it was used for royal families.” Using thumb pressure along the meridian lines and points of CTTM, therapists began each session with 15 minutes focused on the shoulders, followed by five minutes on both sides of the upper back, 10 minutes on the area connecting the neck and shoulders, three minutes on the tips of the shoulders, five minutes on the back of the head, two minutes on the middle line of the head and five minutes on the forehead.

The main outcome measures for this study were pain, tissue hardness, pressure pain threshold (PPT) and heart rate variability (HRV). These measures were assessed before the first intervention and again two and four weeks later, with a follow-up assessment at week six.

A visual analog scale ranging from 0 to 10 was used to evaluate the level of headache pain among the subjects. To measure tissue hardness and PPT, the researchers used a tissue hardness meter and algometer. HRV was assessed while each subject sat in a chair, using a Biocom Heart Rhythm Scanner Professional Edition.

 

A Decrease in Symptoms

Results of the research revealed headache pain intensity had decreased from the baseline measure at week two, week four and also at the six-week follow-up assessment for subjects in both the treatment and control groups. However, the mean pain level was lower for the CTTM group than the amitriptyline group at all assessment times. Tissue hardness decreased at each assessment in both groups as well, but it was lower among subjects in the CTTM group at week four.

PPT increased from the baseline measure at week two, week four and also at the six-week follow-up assessment for subjects in both the treatment and control groups. However, the mean PPT was higher for the CTTM group at all assessment times. Increased HRV was found among subjects in both groups as well, with greater improvements among subjects in the CTTM group.

“CTTM seems to be an effective therapy for enhancing the function of the parasympathetic nervous system and other stress-related variables as well as reducing CTTHs,” concluded the authors.

 

About the Authors

Authors: Peerada Damapong, Naowarat Kanchanakhan, Wichai Eungpinichpong, Prasobsook Putthapitak and Pongmada Damapong.

Sources: College of Public Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand; Research Center in Back, Neck and Other Joint Pain and Human Performance, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand; Bamnet Narong Hospital, Amphur Bamnet Narong, Chaiyaphum Province, Thailand; and College of Allied Health Science, Suan Sunandha University, Bangkok, Thailand. Originally published in September 2015 by Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2015.

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