How To Prevent Getting A Headache After Massage

Most people feel relaxed and rejuvenated following a massage, but there’s a small chance you may experience negative side-effects. Some people report getting headaches, which are generally accompanied by a feeling of malaise. This isn’t normally a cause for concern, but these symptoms can be very uncomfortable.

Why do some people get a headache following a massage?

1. Inappropriate head positioning during the massage

If your therapist doesn’t align your neck and shoulders properly, this could cause you pain and discomfort. You’ve probably had the experience of falling asleep in an awkward position and waking up in pain. The same thing can happen on a massage table!

2. Changes in blood flow

During a massage, your blood vessels may constrict and relax. Fluctuations in blood flow can trigger a headache.

3. Dehydration caused by the release of metabolic waste

According to massage therapist Casey Holliman, getting a massage can trigger a dehydration headache.

During a massage, your muscles become looser. As your therapist applies pressure, blood flow to the area increases. Metabolic waste that was previously trapped in the muscle is free to leave the body via the lymphatic system. This prompts the kidneys to work harder, meaning they use more water than usual.

To facilitate this process, your body draws out water from your bloodstream. As a result, you may become dehydrated, which can give you a headache and urgent sense of thirst.

4. Low blood sugar levels

Research shows that massage can reduce blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. This is because it lowers levels of cortisol, a hormone that triggers a rise in blood sugar.

Although this is great news for people with hyperglycaemia, it may have other implications for those with low blood sugar. Specifically, massage can trigger mild hypoglycaemia, which can cause headaches and nausea.

How can you prevent a post-massage headache?

1. Drink plenty of water before and after a massage

To pre-empt dehydration, be sure to stay hydrated. As a general rule, aim to drink 2-3 liters per day. You will require extra water if you work or exercise outside. Avoid caffeinated drinks, because they have a dehydrating effect.

Plain water is always the best option. If you can’t stand the taste, add a few slices of lemon or lime. You could also try sparkling water if you are bored of the still kind.

2. Tell your therapist if your head or neck feels painful during your massage

Massage should not hurt. If something does not feel right, speak up. Your therapist will be happy to move you into a more comfortable position.

3. Eat sensibly on the day of your massage

If you are prone to low blood sugar, have a snack containing protein and carbohydrates an hour before your massage. It’s a good idea to take another snack with you to eat afterwards. Let your therapist know in advance if you have a history of hypoglycaemia.

Massage treatments rarely cause serious harm, and you should start feeling better quickly. If your headache does not go away after a few hours, or is severe, consult a doctor.


Carmen is an entrepreneur and content marketer. In a former life, as a corporate business executive, she relied on yoga, reflexology and other alternative practices to fight stress, anxiety and find balance. She’s on a mission to build healthy habits for a balanced, healthy life, connecting body, mind and spirit.