14 Headache Red Flags: When Massage Isn’t Good for Your Headache

Massage therapy is helpful in most types of headaches but there are some types of headaches where a patient should be going to a medical doctor instead of a massage therapist.

The following lists headache symptoms that need medical attention. In the following instances, massage is NOT good for the patient’s headache. A patient should be cleared by a medical doctor before getting a massage for the following headache symptoms:

  1. Headache that awakens patient from sleep.
  2. Headache with projectile vomiting but no nausea.
  3. Headache that is intense, with localized pain over sinus and around teeth.
  4. Headache that begins after lying down.
  5. Headache that improves when lying down and worsens when upright (sitting up, standing up).
  6. Severe Headache that begins suddenly, unexpectedly, and immediately – pain reaches maximum intensity within a couple of minutes or seconds –  (Thunderclap Headache).
  7. Change in pattern and characteristics (eg. frequency, severity) from previous headache.
  8. Constant headache that is always in the same location in the head.
  9. Headache that doesn’t go away.
  10. Headache that is associated with:
    • altered ability to think
    • seizures
    • personality changes
    • visual disturbances
    • numbness or altered sensitivity
    • loss of strength / coordination
    • loss of sense of smell/taste/hearing
  11. Headache that worsen with activity/ exertion – headache starting while coughing, sneezing, and/or straining (for more information visit: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/primary-cough-headaches/symptoms-causes/syc-20371200 .
  12. Headache that is associated with fever.
  13. Headache that is associated with the flu, or other contagious viral or bacterial infection.
  14. Headache that is associated with the common cold. Common cold, aka cold, is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract that primarily affects the nose. Symptoms may include coughing, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, headache, and fever.
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