A new study by Albert Moraska and colleagues from the University of Colorado assessed the effects of single and multiple massage treatments on the pressure-pain threshold (PPT) at myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) in people with myofascial pain syndrome experienced as a tension-type headache. The study was published in the February 2017 issue of American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.
The study involved 62 participants with episodic or chronic tension-type headache. They were randomized to receive 12 twice-weekly 45-min massage treatments, or sham (fake) ultrasound sessions, or a wait-list control. Massage therapy treatment utilized was primarily focused on trigger point release (sustained ischemic compression) of MTrPs in the bilateral upper trapezius and suboccipital muscles.
The researchers found that PPT increased across the study time frame in all four muscle sites (suboccipital and upper trapezius) for the massage group, but not for sham ultrasound or wait-list groups. Post hoc analysis within the massage group showed an immediate increase in PPT, a cumulative and sustained increase in PPT over baseline, and an additional immediate increase in PPT at the final (12th) massage treatment.
The authors concluded:
- Single and multiple massage treatment applications can decrease a client’s pain at myofascial trigger points.
- The ability of clients to have a higher threshold to pain at myofascial trigger points has a great capacity to increase; even after multiple massage treatments.
- This suggests that multiple treatments can have cumulative benefits for clients with myofascial trigger points.