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Tension Headaches - How Remedial Massage can help

Firstly when it comes to headaches we need to be aware of the numerous different types and causes. Headaches can be classified into two main groups. Primary or Secondary.


Secondary Headaches  As the name suggests, are symptoms of underlying pathologies. This can be something as mild as a cold or flu but can be pathologies of a more serious nature such as a stroke, a brain tumor or meningitis.

Secondary Headaches can also develop from:

dehydration (not enough water or after a night of drinking alcohol)side effects of drugshormonal imbalancesvision issueswithdrawal off drugs - eg caffeine

Primary Headaches

Have no underlying pathologies and are classified as: Tension-type The result of an imbalance within the musculo-skeletal system of the body or an injury to soft tissue supporting the head and spine. Tension headaches are also caused from stress - the unknowingly 'tightening' of the muscles and possibly poor postural positioning due to stress.

Migraines Usually affect only one side of the head, can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting and an aversion to light. Some are preceded by 'auras' which cause blurred vision and a good indicator that a Migraine is developing.

Cluster Headaches These are quite rare, usually pain on one side of the head, but you can also have watering of the eye and nose on the affected side as well as facial swelling and sweating. As the name mentions they come in clusters lasting seconds or hours usually at night and more common in men. Rebound Headaches Due to head or neck trauma. These are related to increasing need for pain medication to manage the headache. Occur in waking in the morning and you can suffer from nausea, anxiety and restlessness. Removing the pain killer is the best and most difficult option for these types of headaches.



How Remedial Massage Therapists can help. You can probably now see if you present to us with a headache we tend to ask lots of questions to make sure it is a primary tension headache that we are dealing with. As this is the type of headache we can help with, and the most common. If we are concerned the headache is secondary we will refer to another healthcare provider if necessary.

Treatment Firstly, as always, we gather subjective and objective data from the client, the written case history form, questions and observations. We next palpate to find the hyper tonic (tight) muscles or possibly active trigger points. The main culprits we we tend to see are:

Upper TrapeziusLevator ScapulaSub occipital groupPosterior cervicals such as Splenus Capitus MassaterTemporalis

We then look at static and dynamic posture and do a AROM - active Range of Movement and PROM Passive ROM assessment and formulate our treatment plan.

So depending on the cause we apply a wide range of tools of our trade.



Start off with some Swedish massage, then some myofascial release, followed by deep tissue therapies such as cross -fibre friction and transverse frictions. If there is a Trigger Point we release it and then importantly STRETCH the muscle, after which we warm down with some more Swedish massage.

Please note this is just a guide, and we may alter this treatment depending on the person and the type of headache. For example if it was coming from the Sub Occipitals we do a great 'hold' to release it. Alternatively Michelle might add some vacuum cupping or if it is 'stress' related you may just need a good Swedish massage to relax the body. 

Importantly, Tension Headaches can be treated by  remedial massage with great success. But remember we always give homework so YOU need to do your stretches, or strength exercises or look at your desk set up at work, or possibly what is causing the stress, and introduce mediation or guided breathing to help. 



Thanks for reading cheers Michelle xx

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