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Headache After Massage or Reiki? Here’s Why…

Ever experienced a headache after massage, Reiki, or acupuncture? Let’s explore some of the reasons why this may happen, and several fixes (many of them quite simple!) to keep you feeling your best.

First, some background about my qualifications to write this article. My name is Lillie, and I’m a certified Boston Reiki practitioner who has worked in hands-on sessions with hundreds of clients since 2018. All of the thoughts in this article are based on real-life experience over the years. I’m also an artist, so I’ve created each of the illustrations here for you.

Headache after massage or Reiki
Headache after massage or Reiki? Here’s why…

Second, a disclaimer: Always use your best judgment in researching to address physical issues. This article will touch upon some possibilities for headaches, but when in doubt, consult a doctor or other professional for full analysis of your specific situation. With that stated, let’s get into the article itself.

Headache After Massage?

Many of us have experienced it at some point: We walk out of a massage, acupuncture, or Reiki meditation appointment expecting to feel better after that “self-care,” but as the day goes on, a pounding headache emerges. What went wrong? There are several possible answers.

1. Dehydration.

The #1 reason I see over and over again for clients getting a headache after Reiki, massage, acupuncture, or chakra balancing is that they are dehydrated. The simple fix is to make sure to drink lots of water before and after your appointment!

What you have to understand is that bodywork is a workout for the entire self: physically, mentally, and emotionally. You wouldn’t run an 800-meter hurdles race and then not hydrate afterwards, right? This is the same idea: You need to replenish the water that was expended during the session.

As I explain in my article about feeling tired after Reiki, I strongly urge all clients to come to appointments with a full water bottle that they drink from directly before and afterwards. If you don’t have a water bottle, feel free to ask the practitioner or masseuse for a cup of water, and make sure to keep hydrating over the next 24 hours.

2. Released emotions and stress.

As the saying goes, “the body keeps score,” and we store a lot of stress, memories, and emotions in our muscles. Given this, sometimes deep tissue massage or energy work like Reiki (see “how to pronounce Reiki” here) will release some of what we’ve kept locked away.

Though this release is ultimately healthy and important, if too much is released too fast, it can make us feel “off” — including possible headaches. To avoid this, make sure you’re prepared with a mental and emotional support system before and after a bodywork appointment. This may look like journaling, therapy, meditation, or reliable friends and family to talk to in order to process whatever comes up.

Getting headaches after massage is frustrating!
Getting headaches after massage is frustrating!

3. Half-processed progress.

As I explain in “How many Reiki sessions are needed?” sometimes it takes several bodywork appointments for a person to work through whatever they’re processing mentally, physically, and emotionally. When this is the case, a headache can arise if the body is sort of stuck halfway through the processing process.

If you’ve tried #1 (hydration) and #2 (emotional and mental supports) on this list and you’re still in the thick of feeling crummy, it might be worth it to schedule another appointment to see the process through. I usually recommend a series of 3 appointments done over the course of 1.5-2 months if you want to get momentum for efficient forward movement. (See my piece on crying during meditation or Reiki for more.)

4. Un-numbing as a cause for a headache after massage.

Have you ever been really sleep-deprived — then after you finally get a good night’s sleep, you actually feel MORE tired? This often happens because your body has been numbed-out and running on adrenaline, and once you start giving it rest and healing, the numbing eases a bit and you can finally feel the fatigue.

Sometimes a headache after massage or Reiki is due to this same effect: You’ve been numbing yourself to certain aspects of your life or body, but the appointment (and perhaps the calming purple aura of effective bodywork) helped you relax long enough to feel reality again.

In these cases, I’d recommend all of the advice in #1 through #3 — with the added counsel to look at your life itself, to see if larger shifts could be made to benefit wellbeing. (See the 5 Reiki Principles for touchstones on this.)

5. Other underlying issues.

As mentioned in the introduction to this list, there may be another issue at play that’s causing you headaches after massage. If you try the other solutions on this list and make little headway, do consult a professional to help give expert support.

Headache After Massage, in Sum

I hope this article on causes of a headache after massage, Reiki, or acupuncture — and possible solutions — has been useful as well as enlightening. I’d love to hear from you now: What has been your experience with getting headaches after bodywork? What further questions do you have? Do share!

Want more? Check out my article on what to wear for Reiki, and a deep dive into the beautiful world of Reiki symbols.