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Tension Headaches and Massage Therapy

April 17, 2018

What are tension headaches?

Headaches can be truly horrible depending on the severity and can be especially annoying when we are busy and tired trying to deal with life’s demands. They are generally a mild to moderate pain that’s often described as tightness and pressure that can feel like a rubber band around your head. Headaches are usually categorised into two groups, tension headaches and migraines. Migraines are derived from more sinister causes and can be particularly difficult to manage and endure. Tension headaches on the other hand, are  commonly caused by pain and tension in muscles of the neck, shoulders, jaw, and face and can even radiate down the arms. Tension headaches can also be caused by spine misalignments, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, arthritis in the neck, depression and anxiety, dehydration, lack of sleep, stress, overexertion and bad posture.

Headaches that are caused by other factors that you should be aware of

  • Concussion
  • Medical problems such as sinusitis, blood clots in the brain (different from stroke), congenital heart disease, glaucoma, encephalitis (brain inflammation), influenza, hang overs, ear infections, toxoplasmosis, panic attacks, intracranial haematoma (blood vessel ruptures in the brain)
  • Lifestyle factors – some headaches can be triggered by processed meats that contain nitrates, red wine or other types of alcohol. Stress, skipped meals, dehydration, loud noise or poor posture can also be contributing factors.
  • Brain tumour – can be benign or malignant. They can cause pain and headaches because they take up space in the brain. It’s important to remember that brain tumours are rare and there may other reasons for the symptoms.- If you have concerns seek consultation with your GP

How can massage help to reduce headaches

Muscle tension headaches can come from various places but are often from the sub occipital muscles at the base of our skull, temporalis, trapezius, cervical, scalene and upper back muscles.

Massage therapy works to treat tension headaches by applying pressure and therefore increasing blood flow to myofascial trigger points, reducing their activity.

Massage can also help to address issues with posture and body alignment and assist to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety that may be contributing to your headaches. A massage therapist can  provide advice regarding at home care and self-stretches.

How can you prevent tension headaches?

  • If you work in an office job and use the phone for more than 15 minutes a day, wear a head set to reduce the pressure placed your neck.
  • Check your office ergonomics
  • Have your eyes tested
  • Stretching and exercises
  • Get up and walk around regularly (is it recommend every 60 minutes)
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