Headaches and migraines can be incredibly debilitating. They can impact our daily lives in a variety of ways and make day-to-day tasks impossible. While various factors can trigger these conditions, muscle tension and tightness in the neck, shoulders, and head often play a significant role. (1) Traditional treatment approaches for headaches and migraines often involve medication. Recently, there has been a growing interest in complementary and alternative therapies. These therapies often seek to find and address the root cause of an individual’s ailments. Myofascial release (MFR) therapy is one such therapy. In this blog, we will explore the impact of headaches and migraines and how MFR can be an effective, holistic way of treating them.
The impact of headaches and migraines
If you suffer from chronic headaches or migraines, you are likely very aware of the impact they have on your health and well-being. When thinking about the impact of chronic headaches and migraines, we often think of how they impact our physical and mental health. When experiencing a headache or migraine episode, our physical body often feels unwell. Some individuals become nauseous, feverish, or extremely fatigued. Those who experience chronic headaches or migraines are more likely to report they also experience bouts of depression and/or anxiety. (2)

Apart from our physical and mental health, headaches and migraines can impact our social and occupational well-being, too. Individuals who suffer from chronic migraines have been shown to have less annual income, on average, when compared to non-migraine sufferers. (2) They also have been shown to have decreased levels of social engagement and time performing leisure activities. So, chronic headaches and migraines decrease our ability to perform work-related tasks, and can begin to tear away at our social relationships.

Common causes of headaches and migraines
Many factors can contribute to the development of a headache or migraine. And, these factors vary from person to person. Here of some of the most common triggers for headaches and migraines:

Myofascial tightness or tension: When the muscles and fascial tissue of our bodies are tense or tight, we are at an increased risk for developing headaches or migraines. You may have heard or even have used the term “tension headache.” Tension or tightness in the muscles of the upper back, neck, and face are key players in triggering headaches and migraines.

Stress: High levels of stress of any kind can kick off a headache or migraine.

Drinks: Drinks with high amounts of caffeine can trigger headaches and migraines. Consuming alcohol, especially wine, can also be a trigger.

Foods: Consuming foods that you may have an allergy or intolerance to can trigger headaches or migraines. Additionally, highly processed foods, fermented or aged foods, and salty foods can also be triggers.

Weather: Weather changes can bring changes in barometric pressure. If you notice your headaches or migraines seem to onset near a change in the weather, this may be a trigger for you.

Sleep: Changes in sleep patterns can cause the onset of headaches or migraines. This is often true for individuals who are getting too much sleep or too little sleep.

Sensory stimuli: Bright, flashing lights, such as strobe lights, can cause migraines in some individuals. Loud sounds or strong smells can also be triggers.

Hormone changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels can trigger headaches or migraines. This is especially true for women. Changes in hormone levels during a menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause can make headaches and migraines more likely.

Due to the many potential triggers for headaches and migraines, it is important to find a treatment that will help you identify the root cause or causes of your headaches or migraines. This often requires a holistic view. Read on to learn a bit more about MFR therapy and how it can be a powerful, holistic way to address headache and migraine relief.
What is myofascial release?
Myofascial release (MFR) is a hands-on soft tissue technique. The main goal of MFR therapy is to release restricted connective tissue called fascia. The fascial system is a network of three-dimensional connective tissue within the body.
Our fascia surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel, and organ. And, it does so down to a cellular level. (3) Fascia is crucial for providing stability and support to the structures of our bodies.

When our fascial health is compromised, it can become tight or restricted. This is often described as the fascia becoming “bound down”, or adhered to the structures it is surrounding. Tight or restricted fascia can cause changes in the mobility and stability of our bodies. When our fascia is restricted, we may notice decreases in our range of motion, muscle knots, restricted blood flow, and numbness and/or tingling. We are likely to experience pain as well.

You may be wondering how fascia can become tight or restricted. Fascia can become “bound down” in multiple ways. Examples of physical factors that can contribute to restricted fascia include trauma, such as injury or surgery, poor posture, and inflammation. Mental factors, such as emotional trauma, can show up in the body as tightened fascial tissue as well. Stress, for example, can actually be embodied as adhered fascia.

Restricted fascia has implications for headaches and migraines. For example, when the fascia of our neck becomes restricted, it begins to pull on the fascia of surrounding areas. This includes the fascia surrounding our skull and brain. Overtime, the fascia in these regions also becomes restricted. As the fascia of our skull and brain continue to bind down, they start to compress our brain and nervous system tissue. This compression can increase the pressure on the brain, resulting in headaches and migraines. This is why relieving restricted fascia with MFR therapy can help bring relief to those suffering headaches and migraines.

The myofascial release technique
MFR therapists release restrictions in our fascia to restore mobility and promote fascial health. To do so, an MFR practitioner applies gentle, sustained pressure to areas of restricted or “bound down” tissue. While this pressure is applied, the therapist will also stretch the tissue. This sustained pressure and stretch are held until the tissue starts to release. From a physiological perspective, there are subtle changes that occur in the tissue after 90 to 120 seconds. But, in MFR treatments, pressure and stretch are typically held for at least five to seven minutes to ensure a full release. (3)

The prolonged, sustained pressure and stretch of MFR treatments are purposeful and intentional. It is what allows the piezoelectric effect to occur. (4) The piezoelectric effect is a chemical and electrical shift that occurs in the cells of the restricted fascial tissue.

The pressure applied by the MFR therapist causes a chemical reaction to occur in the tissue. This reaction is then converted by our cells into electrical charges. These charges have many benefits including pain relief, cellular regeneration, and tissue repair. Harnessing the piezoelectric effect is just one way MFR treatments differ from traditional massage therapy or other therapeutic modalities. It allows MFR treatments to enhance patient healing far more than other approaches of care.

MFR therapists use a slow and deliberate approach in their treatment sessions. This allows them to better sense and respond to the needs of their patients. This ability to sense the needs of patients is sometimes referred to as “resonance”, or the blending of the practitioner and patients’ energies. According to John F. Barnes, the leading expert in the field of MFR, this resonant state is where true healing occurs. By tapping into resonance, an MFR therapist can sense and follow the fascia as it releases. This process is similar to ice unthawing – the fascia moves from a solid state back to one that is fluid, relaxed, and wavy. Working in this way gives the therapist access to the deepest levels of restriction. And, it provides the opportunity to heal the root cause of any pain or discomfort.

Treating headaches and migraines with myofascial release
MFR therapists can help you find relief from headaches and migraines by restoring health to your fascial system. And, they will do so from a holistic perspective. This means you will be better able to identify the root trigger or triggers for your headaches and migraines and find lasting relief. Below are just a few of the many benefits MFR therapy can offer to individuals suffering from headaches or migraines.

Releasing tension: As mentioned above, musculoskeletal tightness or tension is one of the most common triggers for headaches and migraines. An MFR therapist will help relieve tension by restoring mobility to your fascial tissue. And by releasing restricted fascia, MFR therapists can assist in relieving headaches and migraines down to a cellular level.

To do so, MFR therapists will identify any fascial restrictions or trigger points in the tissues of the head, neck, or shoulder regions that may be contributing to your headaches and migraines. Once the points are identified, the therapist will apply sustained pressure and gentle stretching to release the tension. By gradually working through the layers of tissue, the therapist can effectively relieve tightness and restore proper mobility.

Restoring posture and alignment: Poor posture and misalignment can contribute to muscle imbalances and fascial tension. Overtime, these imbalances can lead to headaches and migraines. Myofascial release aims to correct these imbalances by releasing any restrictions and improving the alignment of the spine, neck, and shoulders. By addressing the underlying structural issues that poor posture and alignment can bring, MFR therapy can help prevent the recurrence of headaches and migraines in the future.

Stress reduction: In addition to releasing fascial restrictions that may be contributing to headaches or migraines, MFR therapy also assists in stress reduction. This means MFR therapy will help you address not one, but multiple triggers for headache and migraine recurrence. There are many ways in which MFR therapy helps relieve stress. The hands-on approach of MFR care stimulates relaxation and helps improve our circulation. MFR therapy also impacts our vagus nerve, which plays a very important role in the body’s relaxation response.

Holistic approach: Instead of focusing only on your symptoms, MFR therapists hold a holistic perspective of your health and wellness. They recognize the variety of triggers that could cause a headache or migraine. And, they are aware of the variety of ways chronic headaches or migraines could be impacting your day-to-day life. Although their treatments primarily address the musculoskeletal system, MFR therapists can help you restore balance to your overall well-being.

Personalized care: Every individual’s experience with headaches and migraines is unique. And, their treatment for them should be as well. MFR therapists tailor their treatment to suit each patient’s specific needs. This personalized approach helps to ensure you are receiving the care you need. And, that the care you are receiving produces effective and long-lasting results.

Finding relief with myofascial release therapy

The effect and impact of chronic headaches and migraines are many. From your physical health, your mental wellness, to your job and social relationships – chronic headaches and migraines leave no area of your life untouched. MFR therapy offers a promising avenue for those seeking relief from the far-reaching effects of headaches and migraines. MFR treatments are holistic, non-invasive, and personalized to ensure you are getting the care you are needing and deserving of. And, by addressing the root cause of your headaches or migraines, MFR treatments can help you find relief that is long-lasting. If you’re struggling with chronic headaches or migraines, consider finding a certified MFR therapist near you today to begin your MFR journey.


  1. Rezaeian, T., Ahmadi, M., Mosallanezhad, Z., & Nourbakhsh, M. R. (2021). The impact of myofascial release and stretching techniques on the clinical outcomes of migraine headache: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 26, 45. https://doi.org/10.4103/jrms.JRMS_745_18
  2. Adams, A. M., Serrano, D., Buse, D. C., Reed, M. L., Marske, V., Fanning, K. M., & Lipton, R. B. (2015). The impact of chronic migraine: The Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes (CaMEO) Study methods and baseline results. Cephalalgia : an international journal of headache, 35(7), 563–578. https://doi.org/10.1177/0333102414552532
  3. Juett, T & Barnes, J. F. (1988). An introduction for the patient. https://myofascialrelease.com/downloads/articles/AnIntroductionForThePatient.pdf
  4. Elliott, J. (2003). Easing pain with myofascial release. News-line for Physical Therapists & PT-Assistants. https://myofascialrelease.com/downloads/articles/EasingPainWithMyofascialRelease.pdf