Massage Therapy for Tension Headaches
Do you suffer from regular tension headaches? Do you often wonder if
there's a better solution than medications? Massage therapy may just be
the answer you've been searching for!
Many people suffer from daily or near-daily headaches, and popping a pain-relieving pill sometimes can make the headache worse!
Chronic sufferers experience more than just a pain in the head! The pain
can radiate into your neck and shoulders and disturb your ability to
get a good, restorative night's rest. Constant pain raises stress levels
and irritability. As simple as it may sound, a tension headache can
interfere with your daily life, decreasing productivity and the overall
quality of your life.
Causes of Tension Headaches
There are many things that may cause this pain. The most obvious being
stress and poor posture. Do you sit at your desk with your shoulders
slumped and your head jutting forward? Do you tense your shoulders up
around your ears when the boss piles on the workload? Do you grind or
clench your teeth?
Are you a weekend warrior, meaning most of your physical activity is on
your down time from work? If so, do you warm up? Cool down? Do you do
too much too fast? Do you play till you drop with fatigue?
And what about sleep? Do you sleep well? Do you get enough sleep? Do you
pile the pillows under your head, causing your neck to rest in an
abnormal position with your chin into your chest? Do you sleep on your
The trick is to evaluate the reasons behind the headache and change the
poor habits to decrease mental and physical stress. Massage is an
excellent way to combat both forms of stress!
Massage can relax affected muscles by decreasing spasms and increasing
range of motion. A well-trained massage therapist can assess the
affected muscles just by your input and through touch.
For example, if your pain is located above the eye, around the ear and
down the side of the neck like a question mark, your upper trapezius
muscle may be the culprit. Your upper traps run from the base of your
skull to your clavicle or collarbone. It is responsible for drawing your
head back and to the side.
And if you experience pain around the eye, in your ear and across you
forehead, it can be your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle, which in turn
can affect your scalene muscles. Your SCM is the cord-like muscle on
the side of your neck running from the base of your skull laterally to
your collarbone. It rotates and depresses your head. Your scalenes are
deep muscles on the side of the neck from your neck vertebra (the bones
of your spinal column) to the first or second rib. This muscle flexes
The use of massage therapy can relax and stretch muscles to relieve pain
and stress. Massage can break the pain cycle plus eliminate the
original source of pain. It can relieve tight muscles, improve range of
motion and alter pain sensations - even stop the nerves that register
pain from firing. It can also increase circulation, since muscle
tightness or tension often leads to ischemia or reduced local
Massage can also reduce the mental aspects of stress, such as anxiety,
anger, confusion and depression by decreasing the stress hormone
cortisol. It can increase your alertness and concentration, thus
improving your productivity.
In short, massage has a positive effect psychologically (mentally) and
physiologically (body functions), all of which can affect pain and its
perception. Stress and continued pain can exacerbate other medical
conditions. The key is to identify the causes and take positive steps to
correct them. Massage is a non-invasive way to get a gripe on the
things getting in the way of a happy, pain-free life.
As strange as it may seem, any these things can cause or aggravate the
pain of the tension headache. Taking steps to eliminate or reduce these
poor habits and muscular imbalances can go a long way in your fight
against chronic tension headaches.
Rid Yourself of the Pain!
Tension headaches can be frustrating - and debilitating! And taking an
over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol can be effective in
relieving pain. But taken regularly, these medications can cause an
increase in headaches in the form of a rebound headache, which is often
worse than the original headache.
Occasionally, a headache can be a sign something is wrong. You should
always consult with your physician before attempting any treatments,
including over-the-counter medications and massage.
If a new headache appears, especially after the age of 50, it may be a
sign of an underlying disease and should be evaluated promptly. If the
headache comes with other symptoms, such as drowsiness, confusion,
weakness, loss of muscle coordination, fever, nausea/vomiting, visual
disturbances or muscle rigidity (like a stiff neck), contact your
physician immediately. Also contact your medical practitioner if the
pain steadily worsens over time or with exertion - or is accompanied
with high blood pressure.
During a massage treatment while suffering with a tension headache,
avoid vigorous or deep pressure techniques as these may result in
kick-back pain. Kick-back pain is a recurrence of symptoms a few hours
or days after treatment. This can occur when these more aggressive
techniques are applied too quickly or deeply without proper follow up
such as slow release, after-technique stretching and heat application to
relieve over-work pain.
To avoid kick-back pain, make sure you visit a well-trained, qualified
massage therapist, whether licensed or certified. Do not let your loved
one try to work out the muscles, especially if you are experiencing
tension headache pain.
Don't try to be a hero - if a certain technique is causing increased
pain - speak up! Massage during a tension headache should be relaxing.
There is time to really work those muscles once the pain in your head is
So, why not try a massage? Book your appointment now!
Who knows, with the right treatment, that nagging head pain may just become an unpleasant memory!