Massage for Tension Headaches

One of the side effects of stress is that a lot of people carry it in their bodies. One of the common places is in the neck and shoulders. I sat down with Leslie Brown RMT to discuss how massage can help with managing one of the most common physical side effects I see of stress in my practice - tension headaches.

What are tension headaches?

Tension headaches are trigger points that refer pain into your head. Trigger points are a tight hyper irritable spot that most people call knots. Each muscle has a different location and referral pattern. For example some one might experience pain behind their eyes and someone else might have pain in the back of the head. A massage therapist will know what muscles to treat based on where your tension headache is. Active trigger points will constantly refer pain into your head, while latent trigger points only create pain when you press on the trigger point. 

 This picture shows some common referral patterns of the neck muscles.  The X's are trigger point locations in the muscles and the red areas show where the referral pain (tension headaches) are felt.

This picture shows some common referral patterns of the neck muscles.  The X's are trigger point locations in the muscles and the red areas show where the referral pain (tension headaches) are felt.

Why do people get them?

Neck problems are so prevalent. So many people have poor posture and are so stressed! Also repetitive computer and cell phone use affects posture and causes neck pain and headaches. These headaches are very prevalent and exhausting. They take away from your focus and energy and impact sleep because when you have pain you don't have restorative sleep, which impacts your overall healing. 

How do you treat tension headaches?

I have a lot of experience with treating headaches and neck pain because of my work with people who have been in motor vehicle accidents.  Many people do not only come in when they have a headache, they come in for prevention and maintenance. Typical treatment would be 1/month to counteract lifestyle factors such as ongoing postural and stress tension. It is also beneficial as time for self care and to help with relaxation. If you are getting more than 3 headaches a year, treatment can help reduce frequency and intensity of your headaches.

Leslie Brown is a Registered Massage Therapist at Norfolk Chiropractic Wellness Centre. To book a massage with Leslie, or chat with Dr. Katie about multidisciplinary headache care call 519 827-0040.