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Is it a Migraine or Neck Pain?

Migraines and neck pain are both very common, but they often go undiagnosed and can be difficult to treat. They can also occur together, making it even more difficult to determine what's causing your symptoms. But if you suffer from these issues, it's important to understand what might be triggering your symptoms and how to treat them effectively. While true migraine triggers can include triggers like certain foods, scents, alcohol consumption, and hormonal changes, in this article we will focus on two common physical causes of migraine-like symptoms. In other words, you may feel the symptoms of a migraine, but they could be caused by muscular pain or joint issues.

Migraine is a family of headaches that typically include a pulsating pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Some people experience eye watering, numbness/tingling in the arm or face, and visual disturbances such as bright spots or flashes of light. If you've ever been driving at night and the headlights of other cars seem to stretch on forever, or have a bright "halo" that appears to stretch out for a few feet, you could be experiencing a migraine.

You might be surprised to learn that early migraine symptoms can include similar symptoms to PMS (premenstrual syndrome). These include: constipation, fluid retention (bloating), mood changes, and food cravings (

Since migraines affect up to 25% of women in their reproductive years, these common symptoms can add to the confusion of determining the root cause of many what many women are experiencing.

Now, let's look at two other conditions that share similar symptoms to a migraine.

Trigger points cause muscle spasm and tenderness in areas of the neck, which can be felt one or more places

Trigger points are small areas of tenderness in the muscles. They can be felt as a tight, hard knot that causes muscle spasm and pain. Trigger points develop with repetitive use of the muscle and when there is instability in a joint, but can also be caused by injuries such as whiplash or falls.

Trigger point symptoms include:

● Tenderness to touch

● Pain when you press on the trigger point (may radiate outward from it)

Two common trigger point referral patterns are from the sternocleidomastoid muscle and

the upper trapezius. The pictures show the areas of referred pain from these muscles in red. The pain follows the same pattern as a migraine - one side of the head, into the forehead and eye area.

Next, let's talk about facet joint dysfunction.

Facet joint dysfunction is common in the neck and shoulders. It involves the joints between two vertebrae of the spine.

It involves the joints between two vertebrae of the spine, which can be affected by

degenerative changes. The facet joints may become inflamed, causing pain and stiffness that can radiate to your upper back or shoulders. Just like trigger points, facet joint pain and dysfunction can radiate pain to specific areas of the upper back and neck, depending on which level of the spine is affected.

Both conditions can be treated with massage therapy.

Massage therapy can be used to treat both migraine and neck pain.

Massage has been shown to help reduce headaches by releasing tension in muscles and improving blood flow throughout the body. It's important to find a skilled massage therapist with excellent anatomy and palpation skills. This means that they can find and feel the trigger points that are located in the muscles causing your pain. Then, they need to be able to resolve those trigger points.

Contrary to popular belief, deep tissue massage is not always the best term to look for when searching for a "good" massage therapist. "Deep Tissue" has become a vague term for massages that deliver extremely firm pressure with elbows. Many people believe they have to be "beat up" to get relief. It's simply not true. What's more important in the success of a massage therapist resolving trigger points is their ability to intuitively meet the client at their pain threshold, and use techniques to relax the nervous system and the muscle tissue. Look for massage therapists that are trained in techniques such as myofascial release, positional release, trigger point therapy, or myoskeletal alignment.

In addition to highly trained therapeutic work, any massage releases serotonin and dopamine, which help us combat anxiety and depression. The less stressed, anxious, and/or depressed we are, the better our bodies can function. It's common to sleep better than usual after a massage because of this!


If you suffer from migraines or neck pain, it's important to understand what might be triggering your symptoms and how to treat them effectively. It is also helpful if you know which type of massage therapy will work best for your condition. If you think that massage could help relieve your symptoms, contact us today! We would love to hear from you!

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