Headaches are an annoyance we all try to avoid and usually chalk it up to excessive stress as the cause. For some, a daily occurrence just becomes the norm. I’m here to tell you that it’s not the norm but in fact the body’s alarm system signaling an imbalance that should not be ignored. There are many causes of headaches: environmental (allergies), hormonal, dehydration. They may be classified as types such as tension, migraine, cluster headaches etc. This is about tension headaches, specifically caused by trigger points in the soft tissue and how you can get relief with massage and self-care techniques.
Massage can help relieve these nasty knots by both breaking up the restricted tissue and bringing blood rich in oxygen and nutrients to the affected tissue. The lack of blood flow is what created the problem and forcing blood back into the area will help facilitate the body to heal the tissue, which will eliminate the occurrence of tension headaches.
While massage is a wonderful holistic therapy used to tackle the symptoms of a tension headache, other therapies may contribute to healing. Trigger point injections, dry needling and pharmacologic treatments are all options for severe cases of pain caused by trigger points. Although, there are a number of self-care techniques that could be considered first before jumping into medical treatments options.
Ice is one of the easiest options for acute pain treatment. Many people think it may be just for swelling from an acute injury but in most incidences of pain, ice is very applicable. It is well worth experimenting with when dealing with tension headaches, what’s there to lose except your pain? Not only is the tissue of a trigger point pulled taut, it is also inflamed and irritated. The nerves surrounding the trigger point is what is sending the message of pain up to the brain. Ice is a soothing treatment that calms the irritated nerves and reduces inflammation. To use ice properly, use a cloth between your skin and the ice pack. Too cold of a temperature can damage the skin. Use the ice pack until the skin feels a numb sensation, about 15-20 minutes. At this point you have received full benefit of the ice and should start to feel relief from your pain. This can be repeated throughout the day up to every hour if necessary. If all you have time for is one ice session and it might not even be until you get into bed at night, it is better than nothing and your body will thank you for the natural relief you helped it get.
While I would like to help you every time you feel a headache coming on by massaging your neck and shoulders, there are other tools you can use at home to get you through the day. A ball used to apply compression into the trigger point can be very effective in getting relief from your pain and tension. Something as simple as a tennis/racquet ball or purchasing a therapy ball designed to use for self-care are all great options for getting into the tension yourself. When using these tools yourself, listening to your body as you work. Breathing through the tolerable level of pain is important in allowing for a sufficient and safe release of tension. You should notice less referral pain and increased range of motion immediately after this form of self-care. If there is an increase in pain for whatever reason, break out the ice pack to calm the area back down.
Our bodies are made up of 60% water. We need it in our tissues to move and function. Hydration is a key component in most protocols of holistic healing but in the case of headaches, it’s paramount. Most health authorities recommend the 8 x 8 rule; 8 glasses of 8 ounces a day. That is a lot of water and many of us might not be getting as much as we should. If headaches are a problem for you, water should be the first thing you reach for in response to the alarm of an imbalance that the body is trying to signal. I hope this information gives you hope for relief from your headaches. Schedule a massage here to give your body the break it’s been asking for.