Massage Therapy for tension headaches!

Hi there!

I thought this week’s post should be dedicated to those devilish pains we call ‘tension headaches’ and how massage therapy can be beneficial for them.

A tension headache (also referred to as a tension-type headache) is the most common type of headache in which the pain can radiate from the lower back of the head, the neck, eyes, or other muscle groups in the body, typically affecting both sides of the head. Recent international studies have shown the average prevalence as 36% for men and 42% for women, which means that about 7 million Australians are likely to suffer from tension-type headaches.

Data from a study at a Sydney Clinic into age, onset and duration of tension headaches showed that onset can be at any age: 15% of patients were under 10 and some were 50 years or over at onset. 40% of patients with tension-type headaches had a close relative with some form of chronic headache. Around 10% had definite migraine symptoms in addition to their tension-type headache and about 50% of patients had a headache every day of their lives that may persist for 10-30 years.

Signs and symptoms may include:
– dull/persistent pain that may vary in intensity (mild to moderate) and is usually felt on both sides of the head or neck
– a constant, tight, heavy or pressing sensation on or around the head
– tautness and tenderness of scalp, neck and shoulder muscles
– neck movements restricted by muscular stiffness and discomfort
– ache in the back or over the left side of the chest
– recurrent and episodic pain (often in association with stress) that can last for minutes, hours, days, months or even years
– mild sensitivity to light and noise
– nausea and indigestion
– trouble concentration and difficulty sleeping
– depression and anxiety (very common)

Triggers may be any of the following:
– poor posture
– bright lights, prolonged reading, loud noise
– medication overuse
– stress, anxiety, tension
– fatigue, emotional upsets, depression

Treatment and Prevention, depending on symptoms and precipitating factors, can include:
– taking time away from stress
– having a balance of work and leisure, sleep and regular exercise
– achieving a state of mental and physical relaxation (easier said than done, I know!)
– over-the-counter or prescription medications
– physiological treatment such as deep breathing exercises, heat pads, neck/shoulder/back massage

What massage can do for your tension headache
Massage has two roles when it comes to treating tension-type headaches:

In a proactive role massage treatments are performed on a regular basis to help the body maintain an optimal level of relaxation and stress-relief. This approach reduces the chances of migraine attacks and tension headaches significantly, by relaxing muscle spasms and trigger points.

In a comfort role massage is provided to ease the pressure brought on during a tension related headache. By focusing on the neck/head, shoulders and back, massage can drastically decrease the pain and discomfort brought on by tension headaches.

A recent study showed that massage therapy recipients exhibited fewer headaches and better sleep quality during the weeks they received regular massage, and the three weeks following, than did participants that did not received massage therapy. Another study found that in adults with tension-type headaches, massage therapy decreased the occurrence of headaches, sleep disturbances and distress symptoms. It also increased serotonin levels which is believed to play an important role in the regulation of mood, sleep and appetite.

Stay warm and safe!
– Freya




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