Get Relief From Tension Headaches

Tension-type headaches (TTH) are the most common type of headaches and are quickly becoming a major health concern. Beginning in early adulthood, 86% of women and 63% of men suffer from tension-type headaches. More than 1/3 of the population experience TTH often resulting in a mild disability from their normal Activities of Daily Living. Stress, fatigue, sickness, hypoglycemia and decreased range of motion in the neck may be contributing factors that worsen a tension headache. This can, in turn, result in difficulties with daily functioning, limitations to performance at work and home. Tension headaches are defined as muscle-contraction-type headaches that include muscle origins associated with trigger points and other myofascial pain syndromes. These headaches can cause bilateral, constant pain and occur most often in the later afternoon once a latent trigger point has been activated. Although episodic tension-type headaches are the most common type of headache, there are several categories that people suffer from. A primary headache is caused by a condition, which could be a tension headache or a migraine. A secondary headache is caused by an original pathology such as head trauma which may cause other symptoms. A cluster headache is much rarer and a lot more aggressive, it is erratic attacks of excruciating headaches brought on with symptoms like sweating, eyelid drooping, and pupil constriction.

Massage therapy, spinal manipulation, chiropractic work, physiotherapy, and craniosacral work are all manual therapies that have been performed for TTH. Trigger point release and soft tissue therapy are becoming the most popular and effective treatment plans for reducing these types of headaches. The focus of treatment is on neck muscles including; scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, sub-occipitals and upper back muscles including; upper trapezius fibres, levator scapula, and rhomboids. Although a large percentage of people turn to prescription medications, such as Advil and Tylenol, to get rid of headaches people suffering from tension headaches are seeking nonprescription hands-on therapy by practitioners. A study performed by Quinn, C., Chandler, C., and Moraska, A. (2002) focused on the effects of massage therapy on non-migraine headaches using treatment including the neck and shoulder muscles for a 4-week period. The treatment comprised of trigger point release and therapeutic massage, working mainly on upper trapezius fibres, sternocleidomastoid, sub-occipitals, splenius capitis, levator scapulae and temporalis muscles. After 4 weeks of two 30-minute massage treatments, a nonpharmacological treatment plan significantly reduced the frequency and duration of the participants’ headaches from 6.8 to 2.0 headaches per week.

Jennifer Newcombe
Registered Massage Therapist


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