Tension headaches are one of the most common types of headaches, affecting tens of millions of Americans each year. They are characterized by shooting pain in the head, scalp, neck and surrounding area. While most people treat their tension headaches with acetaminophen or similar over-the-counter pain relievers, massage therapy can prove to be just effective, if not more effective.
The Scoop on Tension Headaches
What makes makes tension headaches unique is how they are created. Scientists and doctors are still trying to determine exactly what happens when a person experiences a headache. The brain is an incredibly complex organ with an estimated 100-500 trillion synapses, and the more we study it, the more we realize just how little we know about it.
With that said, doctors have pinpointed the cause of tension headaches as built-up muscle tension – muscles in the head or neck which remain constricted.
Treating Tension Headaches With Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is a safe and effective method for relieving tension headaches without the use of drugs. The massage therapist will focus on muscles in the upper-body region with the greatest tension, kneading and working out the “knots” to promote a more natural relaxed state. Once the muscles revert back to a relaxed state, the tension headache will gradually subside.
The human body isn’t designed to maintain a constant state of tension, as this restricts normal blood flow while adding undue stress to vital organs and systems. When a person experienced an abnormal amount of muscle tension in his or her upper-body, a tension headache may begin to set in. It’s not something that happens instantly, but over the course of several hours or days of maintaining constricted muscles the neurological system begins to suffer.
There are several key areas that professional massage therapists target for the relief of tension headaches. The suboccipitals, for instance, is a group of muscles on the back of the neck where the skull connects to the spine. Tension headaches may form when these muscles remain in a constricted state. The good news is that massage therapists can easily target the suboccipitals, offering almost instant relief of the client’s headache.
The temples – the sides of the head directly behind the eyes – are another target location for relieving tension headaches through massage therapy. Gently massing this area can relieve tension and stress, which subsequently treats headaches. Other areas frequently targeted for the relief of tension headaches include the bridge of the nose, neck, forehead and face.