Headaches comprise of 30% of my treatments at Absolute PhysioCare and it’s no surprise since most of us practice poor posture, especially when sitting in front of the computer screen.
If you suffer from dull tension headaches more than three times a week, you can greatly benefit from having a few massage treatments.
What are tension headaches you ask?
Tension headaches are headaches that stem from muscle tension imbalances and are associated with trigger points and other myofascial pain syndromes.
A trigger point is best described as a hyper-irritable spot, usually within a taut band of muscle. It is tender upon touch and refers pain elsewhere in the body, like in the temples of the head for instance, and shortens the affected muscle.
How do you know if you have a tension headache?
A tension headache usually affects both sides of the head and feels diffuse and constant throughout the day. It may be dull or feel as if your head is being squeezed like an orange. Depending on which muscles are affected, the pain can start in the back of your head, your temples, over your eyes, or behind your eyes and can even mimic a toothache. The most common symptoms other than a dull ache include muscle tenderness and stiffness; loss of appetite, nausea, vertigo and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) are some of the less common symptoms. If you suffer from headaches, you probably already know first hand that stress, fatigue, cold, poor eating habits and poor posture contribute to their intensity and frequency.
What can you do?
Well, first thing’s first. We need to determine what causes your headaches. Before talking to your therapist, write down where, when and what you were doing when you experience a headache. For example:
- Do you have headaches in the morning right when you wake up, or that you only suffer from headaches when you in front of the computer at work?
- Are your headaches worse after long periods of sitting or driving or only when you go outside?
- Do you experience a throbbing pain in your temples during a headache or do you get numbness or tingling down your arm into your hands?
- Were in you involved in a recent motor vehicle accident or received a concussion in the past?
- What makes the headache go away other than medicine?
Such information will allow your therapist to create a personalized treatment plan to allow you to live a headache free existence.
How can massage help me?
Your Burnaby massage therapist can help treat the trigger points by massaging and relaxing the affected muscles. This can range from a simple myofascial release or using a muscle energy technique to trick a muscle into relaxing. By decreasing the tautness of your neck and shoulder muscles, it will allow more blood to flow freely to and from your head decreasing the frequency and intensity of throbbing headaches. We can also determine which muscles you will need to strengthen to prevent head forward posture.
Alternative Headache Treatments
Our Burnaby physiotherapists provide cervical spine tractioning, acupuncture, intramuscular stimulation IMS, and remedial exercises to further help you with your headaches while our Burnaby chiropractors can also manipulate the joints and muscles in the neck to increase your range of motion in case you are suffering from a stiff neck.
What can you do in the meantime?
One of the best ways to relax your body is to treat yourself to a nice hot bath. By soaking your neck muscles in hot water, about 36 to 38 degrees, it will allow your muscles to better relax. If you have a throbbing headache, you may wish to put a cold compress on the back of your neck and soak your feet in hot water; the hot water will draw the excess blood trapped in your head towards your feet and the cold compress will prevent too much blood from entering it.
Stretching regularly and practicing good posture can also prevent the onset of tension headaches. This can be as simple as rising from your seat once every half an hour at work to grab a drink of water, sitting in a chair with adjustable armrests or not sleeping face down at night. You may also try this fun posture game. Whenever you sit down, slump forward like a rag doll, then arch your back 100% and then relax 10%. See if you can maintain this posture for more than 10 seconds. You may wish to reward yourself with a small treat as positive reinforcement. Over time, as long as you keep at it, you will find that your posture will improve and that your headaches may be a thing of the past!