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Tension Headaches

Updated: Mar 8

So, what is a headache?

Put very simply, a headache is a pain experienced in any part of your head. This pain can vary from throbbing to stabbing to a dull ache, and can last for minutes, hours or even days.  The main categories of headache are Migraine, Tension headaches and cluster headaches.

Migraines are a neurological disorder in which headache is just one of the symptoms. They can be debilitating and very complicated. 

Cluster headaches are relatively rare with around 1 in 1000 people experiencing them. This type of headache comes on suddenly with a strong pain on one side of the head, usually behind or around the eye. As the name suggests, these most often occur in clusters, with attacks generally lasting from 15 minutes up to 3 hours.

In our clinic, we most often treat our clients for tension headaches. Tension headaches are mild to moderate pain often described as feeling like a tight band around the head.

Headaches can be caused or triggered by a range of factors that include:

  1. Muscular tension

  2. Trigger points

  3. Jaw issues

  4. Dehydration

  5. Stress

  6. Posture

  7. Fatigue

  8. Eye strain

  9. Diet

A great way to help prevent your headaches is to be aware of the times you are getting them. Notice them first thing in the morning? Check your pillow, mattress, sleep position/environment and if you might be clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth.

If you are noticing headaches later in the day, it is well worth paying attention to your posture. Loading muscles for too long in one position can build tension and lead to a dreaded headache.  Are your shoulders rounded, is your head forward, are you slumping over to one side more than the other?

A great tip to help with your posture is to draw a little dot on the back of one hand and whenever you notice it throughout the day, take that as a reminder to check in with your posture and to make any small corrections.

How can we help?

Myotherapy: We will identify the cause of your headaches, work to eliminate the pain and prevent them from returning!  Headaches are multifactorial, so we will assess your posture, range of movement, muscular imbalances and chat about other aggravating factors like hormones, stress and environment.

We will palpate your soft tissue to find and treat any muscular trigger points that refer to your headache. These trigger points are commonly found in muscles such as trapezius, the suboccipitals and sternocleidomastoid. We will use a range of soft tissue techniques, joint mobilisation, dry needling, cupping, and stretching to help alleviate your pain. We will also give you advice and corrective exercises to prevent the headaches from returning.

Massage:  Massage offers an array of benefits when it comes to easing and preventing headaches. From relaxing the mind and body to targeting areas of built-up tension, it’s a fantastic modality to stay ahead of headaches. Do yourself a favour and ask your therapist for a scalp massage next time you are in. Releasing your Occipitofrontalis and Temporalis muscles will help to ease a lot of tension, plus it will feel amazing!

Infrared Sauna: Our Infrared Sauna is also a great tool to use to help prevent headaches but you must be sure to hydrate before, during and after. The sauna can help by easing muscle tension (heat, circulation), reducing stress (taking time for yourself, focused breathing, soothing heat and red light) and improving sleep.  Our sauna host Emma will tailor the sauna session for your headaches, making sure the temperature and colour therapy will give you the best results. 

How can you help yourself?

Relaxing shoulders:  A simple exercise to help you relax and reset your posture throughout the day

  1. Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel your ribcage expand

  2. At the top of your inhalation, hold for a count of 4

  3. As you exhale, notice your shoulders float gently down away from your ears

  4. Repeat as many times as you need

Shoulder rolls: We encourage you to take your shoulder rolls backwards to counter our naturally forward leaning posture patterns. Focus on making each movement separate, rather than just rolling loosely and imagine moving in more of a square rather than a circle.

  1. Sitting or standing, set your shoulders into a comfortable neutral position, chin parallel to the floor

  2. Slowly lift your shoulders up towards your ears

  3. Gentle squeeze your shoulder blades together as you draw your shoulders backward

  4. Slowly lower your shoulders down towards your hips

  5. Return to your neutral starting position, being careful to not hunch forward

  6. Move mindfully, with your breath and perform 5-10 cycles

Scapular retraction: A simple and effective movement to strengthen our posterior torso and help support more balanced upper body posture.

  1. Sitting or standing, set your shoulders into a comfortable neutral position, chin parallel to the floor

  2. With a 10% effort, draw your shoulder blades towards each other and also downward. Think of sliding your right shoulder blade towards your left back pocket and your left shoulder blade towards your right back pocket.

  3. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then return to your starting position

  4. Perform 10 reps

Chin tucks: To help lengthen the back of your neck, give this one a try

  1. Sitting or standing, set your shoulders into a comfortable neutral position, set your gaze on something at eye level to ensure your chin is parallel to the floor.

  2. Place a finger gently on your chin to mark your starting point

  3. Gently draw the chin directly backward (there should be separation between the chin and finger now) until you feel a slight stretch at the base of your skull.

  4. Hold for a count of 3

  5. Bring the chin back to your finger. (Tip- using the finger to mark your start/end point is great to begin with. As you get more used to the movement, you may not need to do this)

  6. Try for 10 reps but be careful not to aggravate your neck. Don’t perform this movement if it causes pain.

Self-massage: Use a Spiky Massage Roller, A versatile little tool that has a greater surface area than a regular spiky ball so you won’t have too much trouble keeping it in place. Check out our Instagram for our favourite ways to use this to help ease those tension headaches.

  1. Place a rolled or folded towel on the floor and lay down on your back with your head on the towel. Find the bony base of your skull and then place the spiky roller lengthways just below it, along your occipital muscles (google these muscles if you need). To ensure you are comfortable, begin by taking some deep breaths and melting the weight of your head and neck onto the roller for 30 seconds. Keep the pressure relatively light, just let the roller and the weight of your head do the work. 

  2. To work a little more deeply into these muscles, slowly move your chin towards your chest and then back again. Do these chin nods 10 times. To massage the more lateral muscles, keep the roller where it is and rotate your head slowly from side to side, 10 times again. 

You can also use the end of the spiky roller to target any particularly tight spots you may have (sit up for this one). Just work the end of the roller in tiny circles over the tense spot, starting with less pressure and building up as tolerated. Be careful not to overdo it as you may end up giving yourself a headache!

Check out our Instagram for the instructional videos

For more information or to book an appointment please call 9489 7511.


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