Massage Therapy for Tension Headaches
There are not many experiences that feel better than a massage with a professional massage therapist! And because of the growing awareness of massage as a registered health care profession, more than likely you probably are already aware of some of the amazing health benefits. Some of these exceptionally helpful benefits include relief from:
- anxiety and depression
- back, leg and neck pain
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- athletic injury
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- and of course, headaches!
And if you suffer from headaches, you might agree that a massage can do wonders for this type of pain, especially when it's caused by tension. A tension headache (aka tension-type headache) is the most common type of headache, and can start in your shoulders, the back of your neck, behind your eyes, or even in other muscle groups in your body. Tension headaches can appear occasionally, or frequently – even daily. The severity of these types of headaches will vary, and is usually throbbing and present in the front, top, or sides of your head. These types of headaches are usually on both sides of your head, and do not affect your vision, balance or strength. The causes of tension headaches can be any or a variety of the following:
- stress, depression or anxiety
- sleep issues
- poor posture
- poor diet
- vision problems
- teeth grinding
Massage therapy is excellent for treating tension headaches when they are connected to muscular issues, which most tension headaches are. The muscles usually involved with tension headaches may include your trapezius, levator scapulae, sternocleidomastoid, and scalenes (i.e. neck and shoulder muscles), or possibly your temporalis muscle (used for chewing and covering most of your temporal bone on the side of your head), or even your orbicularis oculi muscle (whose action is to close your eye, and is very easy to massage).
Massage is excellent for pain and discomfort associated with tension-type headaches. By applying professional massage techniques such as pressure, movement, and stretching, your therapist helps to relax your muscles and make you more comfortable. For tension headaches, they may need to do more deep-tissue massage, which further helps improve circulation and reduces the pain and tension in your muscles. The improved circulation helps reduce inflammation, which often occurs in muscles that are irritated and causing you pain. Massage can also help to release endorphins, the 'feel good' chemicals in your brain that lower stress levels and help you relax.
If you are experiencing frequent headaches and are concerned, see your doctor to rule out a more serious condition. Once determined that your headaches are likely to be muscle-related, seeking out the help of a registered massage therapist is the next smart step to take.
By Richard Lobbenberg, BSc BHSc DAc
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