Chronic headaches are a distressing fact of life for millions of people. The need to continually cope with pain often diminishes the quality of a person's life at work and home. With its ability to relieve muscle tension, promote healing of injuries, and reduce stress, therapeutic massage can be a powerful ally in your battle against chronic headaches.
What Type of Headache Do You Have?
Tension headaches--Many headaches are due to basic muscle tension. Tension headaches vary in pain level and are sometimes accompanied by band-like pressure around the head. They originate in the neck, head, and shoulders from tight, contracted muscles, and/or trigger points (irritable spots that refer pain elsewhere). Postural problems, mental and physical stress, and disturbed sleep patterns can all contribute to tension headaches.
Migraine headaches--Migraines are characterized by intense, one-sided pain, which may extend to the face, jaw, and neck. They can last from several hours to several days and involve nausea, dizziness, extreme fatigue, and sensitivity to light or sound. Factors that can contribute to the onset include stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, food allergies, missing a meal, certain medications, bright lights, and loud noises.
Headaches due to neck injury--Muscle and ligament injuries in the neck often cause headaches. These injuries can be caused by a sudden trauma such as whiplash, or have a gradual onset from repetitious activities such as working at a computer for hours every day. Muscle tension and scar tissue in injured areas can limit moment, restrict blood flow, and cause trigger points, resulting in head and neck pain.
Other types of headaches
Cluster headaches occur in a series, then disappear for months at a time.
Rebound headaches are caused by accumulated toxins from frequent use of prescription or over-the-counter pain medications.
Post-traumatic headaches are a result of head injury, may occur immediately or well after the injury, and often go hand-in-hand with headaches due to neck injury.
Among the long list of other headache causes are sinusitis, allergies, TMJD (temporomandibular joint dysfunction), high blood pressure, tumors, and strokes.
It is important to receive medical attention for these, or any chronic or severe headache. Also, because there is a chance that a sudden severe headache could indicate an emergency, if you experience head pain unlike anything you've experienced before, seek medical help immediately.
How Can Massage Help? Massage to the neck and head can relieve headaches by releasing tight, shortened muscles, trigger points, and fascia (connective tissue surrounding muscles and other structures). When muscles and fascia relax and become more pliable, circulation improves. This helps eliminate irritating waste products and brings oxygen and healing nutrients to tissue.
If your headache is due to an injury, massage therapy can promote healing and make restrictive scar tissue more pliable in the muscles and ligaments of the neck. If posture is a factor, massage can help by increasing your awareness of tension patterns that affect your posture so that you can take steps to improve it.
For migraines, massage may be a powerful preventive measure. It can help reduced accumulated physical and mental stress and, over time, reduce the frequency and intensity of episodes.
Meeting Your Individual Needs To treat your specific headache pattern, I will draw from various massage techniques as well as other strategies such as stretching or hot and cold applications. A single session can provide much needed short-term relief. For more lasting effects, I may recommend a series.
Always keep me informed about your symptoms, medications and state of health so that I can ensure that your treatment is comfortable and effective.
A Comprehensive Approach Because chronic headaches often result from multiple factors, a multifaceted approach that includes massage may by the most effective treatment. Following an exercise program or practicing yoga, tai chi, or other movement arts may also help reduce muscle tension and improve posture and balance in your body. A physician, allergist, or licensed nutritionist can assist you if your headache has a chemical, dietary. or hormonal factor. Stress counseling may help you learn to relax and to express your feelings, which can prevent stress from building.
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