Scalp Massage Basics

craniosacral massage therapy
How can a scalp massage relieve stress? See more pictures of personal hygiene practices.

Cool fingertips run along your neck, gently rubbing the tension away from your spine. They make their way up the back of your head. You close your eyes to rest. You're not dreaming -- you're enjoying a scalp massage.

Massage is one of the most common ways to reduce stress. It's a simple complementary medicine technique that involves kneading soft tissues in the body, which can create a calming effect and removing tension [source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine].


One popular type of massage therapy is scalp massage. Massaging the scalp can help stimulate the nerves and blood vessels beneath the skin while calming muscle tension around the head. Although many different cultures have used massage as a form of therapy for thousands of years, it's possible to trace the history of the head and scalp massage to India. The people of India have incorporated head massage into therapeutic practice for about 5,000 years as part of ayurveda, a holistic medicine. Many Indian women used it as part of a weekly ritual, massaging the scalps of family members to prevent stress and even illness [source: Osborn].

Like massages delivered in salons and spas, ayurvedic scalp massages often include massage of the face, neck, back and shoulders. Massage technicians and therapists use their fingers to rub the base of the scalp beneath the hair, the sides of the head, the forehead, chin, hairline, neck, shoulders and spine.

The great thing about scalp massage is you can perform it on yourself. Scalp massage may also be included as part of a haircut, depending on the salon. But that's not all. In this article, you'll find out how kneading your scalp could benefit your entire body.


Benefits of Scalp Massage

Your scalp is healthiest when it's clean. But it may also need a little stimulation to keep any potential problems away. Although further research is necessary to formally define the benefits of massage, some studies have shown that massage can increase the production of certain chemicals in the body, including endorphins and serotonin [source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine]. These chemicals can help put you in a better mood, reducing your stress and creating an environment for relaxation.

Scalp massage also can relieve pain by improving circulation and removing muscle tension [sources: WebMD]. This can be especially helpful if you have a migraine or headache. Migraines are sometimes caused by a decrease in serotonin levels; scalp massage may be able to increase serotonin levels and relieve pain. Headaches, on the other hand, may be caused by muscle tension, which a scalp massage can also alleviate [sources: Mayo Clinic].


If you sit at a desk all day, you're probably familiar with a feeling of stiffness in your neck. It can even happen when you're watching a long movie in a theater or if you sleep in an awkward position. Since a scalp massage often includes massage of the neck, back and shoulders, it can also help relieve that crick in your neck [source: Selinger].

You've learned how fingers can work wonders during scalp massages, but what about using massage brushes? Read on to find out if they're worth the investment.


Scalp Massage Brushes

Scalp massage has several benefits, even when you use just your fingers. But if you add a brush into the mix, you can increase the good feeling you get.

A scalp massage brush is a small tool that fits in the palm of your hand, usually about the size of a tennis ball. It includes thick bristles made specifically for the scalp. It offers a lot more than your everyday hairbrush, which is intended for hair and could be too harsh on the thin skin on your scalp. A massage brush also may include a handle with a good grip so that you can use the brush in the shower and avoid dropping it in a damp environment.


Using a massage brush to knead your scalp provides the same benefits of a massage, but using the brush while shampooing can also can help your hair. It can remove dirt in your hair and on your scalp, and distribute shampoo and conditioner. It can strengthen the roots of your hair and even the hair follicles where hair grows. Just as scalp massage can pull natural moisturizers out of the pores and onto your scalp, it also can draw those natural oils into the hair. This can leave your hair shiny, soft and strong.

With just your fingertips or a good brush, you can relieve stress, improve your hair's condition and create a healthy scalp all by yourself. Of course, if you want to pamper yourself, you can always go to a salon to get a scalp massage. To learn more about scalp massage, see the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Mayo Clinic. "Migraine." June 6, 2009. (Sept. 25, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Tension Headache." Feb. 7, 2009. (Sept. 25, 2009)
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). "Massage Therapy: An Introduction." Sept. 2006. (Sept. 25, 2009)
  • Osborn, Karrie. "Indian Head Massage." Massage & Bodywork Magazine. Jan. 2005. (Sept. 25, 2009)
  • PETCO. "Lentek Koolatron Ionic Waterless Pet Massage Brush." 2009. (Sept. 25, 2009)
  • Segrave, Kerry. "Baldness: A Social History." 1996. (Sept. 25, 2009)
  • Seliger, Susan. "Massage Therapy for Stress Relief and Much More." WebMD. June 1, 2008. (Sept. 25, 2009)
  • WebMD. "Alternative Treatments for Migraines and Headaches." Dec. 1, 2006. (Sept. 25, 2009)
  • WebMD. "Chronic Pain -- Other Treatment." Jan. 20, 2009. (Sept. 25, 2009)