1970s: Migraines, Other Headaches and Massaging Them Away


When I was very much younger, I had headaches. Bad headaches. Migraines! As a kid in grade school, I would sometimes have to go and sit in a darkened room and wait for it to pass. Aspirin and other analgesics didn’t help. Then, in high school, I saw a doctor who identified the worst of the headaches as migraines and educated me about controlling them. He taught me to watch for the pre-migraine ‘aura’ of feeling heightened sensitivity to sound and light. He also told me that I should give up coffee and chocolate because they were triggers.

THAT didn’t happen. Coffee and chocolate are two of my favorite addictions! No way was I going to stop revelling in those.

As I moved on into college and graduate studies, the migraines continued. They finally tapered off in my early 40s though I haven’t a clue why. When I lived in Kuwait I had some really stupendous migraines that I dealt with by lying in freezing cold water in a bathtub with the lights off. Earlier in Cairo I had to take cold showers since there was no bathtub. The dark and the coldness would usually wind down a migraine peak after a couple of hours. But of course, the migraines lasted a couple of days, waxing and waning in a process I knew but didn’t understand.

But along the way a weird thing happened. I somehow acquired the ability to help others with headaches by massaging away their headaches. Initially, I just ran my hands alongside the temples of their heads until their headaches dissipated. Unfortunately, I also ended up acquiring the other person’s headache. Luckily these didn’t turn into migraines and I could deal with them by taking aspirin and other analgesics.

Over time, I discovered that I didn’t have to actually put my hands on a person with a headache. I could achieve the same relief by moving my hands back and forth alongside their temples without touching the head, a process that might go on for a quarter or half an hour. In fact, this non-touching method didn’t seem to transfer the headaches to me either.

When I moved back to the States in my 40s, my migraines dwindled and so did my role in relieving others of their headaches. I don’t know whether I can still do it but I haven’t tried it for twenty years or so. The last person I did the headache relief for was my late partner Ed Norris.

Published by Mark Meinke

Married gay Quaker and historian, retired, and working more than ever.

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