Massage Therapy for Tension Headaches

Tension HeadacheHeadaches and all they imply are of special interest to me. I started experiencing debilitating headaches in my early 20’s and at times they left me feeling that they were something I was going to have to live with. Ultimately my headaches were diagnosed as migraine headaches and medications became available that were able to treat my headaches. The side effects of these medications very often left me feeling sick so it was fortunate for me that I discovered massage therapy.

Tension Headaches are the most common form of headache. When the areas around the head, neck and jaw become excessively tense the surrounding areas are forced to do their normal workload with a diminished blood flow which can cause the nutrient supply to the muscles in your head and neck to be inadequate. Although tension headache sufferers don’t experience the same light and noise sensitivity and aren’t quite as debilitated from the headache as a migraine sufferer, modern research also links both Migraine and tension headaches with very similar chemical triggers.

Massage therapy can not only increase the blood flow to these areas but also increase the range of motion for all the muscles involved. This means that the neck, jaws and the plates of your skull all move more freely after a massage with an increased blood flow and nutrient supply.

Trigger points in the suboccipital ridge (base of the skull where the neck and the skull meet) is in my experience the most likely culprit for tension headache pain. Not only are there many muscles and fascia formations in this small portion of the body, this is also a region that is responsible for fine motor controls and keeping your head balanced perfectly on your spine. The muscles and joints here work overtime to do their job without very much room for deviation. What this means is that when tension builds up in this area there is less freedom for blood to flow in and out of this area and for many of us this is when the headache begins.

Trigger points in the thoracic outlet (an area thick with nerve fibers, arteries and veins where the shoulder and the neck meet) are also another likely spot to find trigger points causing headache pain. Trigger points can be found throughout the neck and spine that can and will refer pain around the head, face and jaws, but trigger points here and along the suboccipital ridge are the most likely culprits.
There are many muscles in the head that can also contribute to tension headache pain. There are groups of muscles that control facial expression, chewing, speech, ocular focus and movement, hearing and even groups of muscles that regulate the plate movement in your skull. Massage therapy for the muscles of the head can not only remedy a lot of headache pain but also lead to a deeper state of relaxation which in itself can remedy a lot of a person’s tension headache pain

I didn’t get involved in massage therapy to treat headaches, it took time and experiences to realize how massage therapy effected headache pain. Side effects from the headache medications I was prescribed were my biggest concern when that’s how I treated my headaches. Today my first thought when I feel a headache coming on is that I need a massage. Not only is it an effective remedy for headache symptoms, the side effects of getting a massage is something I look forward to.

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