Getting a headache after a massage seems contradictory: Why would something that’s supposed to relax you produce such an unpleasant side effect? Still, many people report experiencing headaches during or after receiving a massage.

Some people think that these post-massage headaches result from toxins being released from the muscles into the bloodstream, however, there’s no actual evidence to support this belief.

So what’s the real reason you always seem to get headaches after a massage?

Causes of headaches triggered by massage

Reasons for your massage induced headache may include:

  1. Dehydration: Not drinking enough water in general often leads to a headache — when combined with massage therapy, dehydration can become amplified.
  2. Too much pressure: If your massage therapist uses too much pressure on your muscles it might lead to bruising, soreness, and/or increased blood circulation. All of these things can trigger a headache.
  3. Blood pressure fluctuations: If you get up too quickly after laying on the massage table for a while, you might experience positional blood pressure changes. This is typically referred to as hypotension and is associated with the onset of headaches.
  4. Sensitivity/irritation: If you’re sensitive to or have an allergy to a product in the massage (i.e. oil or incense), this could be the cause of your headache.

How to prevent post-massage headaches

No one wants a set of pulsing temples to interrupt the post-massage bliss. Luckily, there are ways you can prevent getting a headache after your next massage.

Remember that communicating with your massage therapist is key. This includes being clear about the amount of pressure that works for you and giving feedback during your massage if it feels too intense. You might also ask your therapist for effective post-massage stretches in order to maximize your blood flow and prevent soreness.

Moreover, making sure to hydrate properly leading up to and after your massage will help ward off potential headaches, as well as packing a light snack for after your treatment. Additionally, avoid drinking alcohol before and after your massage as this will only amplify dehydration.

Finally, know that it’s OK if massages aren’t for you. Everyone’s different and if you’re taking precautionary measures but still getting that post-massage headache, you might want to experiment with an alternative relaxation method.