Headache types explained
Many headaches are due to basic muscle tension. Tension headaches vary in pain level and are sometimes accompanied by band-like pressure around the head. The originate in the neck, head and shoulders from tight, contracted muscles and/or trigger points (irritable spots that refer pain elsewhere aka knots) postural problems, mental and physical stress, and disturbed sleep patterns can all contribute to tension headaches.
Migraines are characterised by intense, one-sided pain, which may extend to the face, jaw and neck. They can last from several hours to several days and involve nausea, dizziness, extreme fatigue and sensitivity to light or sound.
Factors that can contribute to their onset include stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, food allergies, missing a meal, certain medications, bright lights and loud noises.
Headaches due to neck injury
Muscle and ligament injuries in the neck often cause headaches. These injuries can be caused by a sudden trauma such as whiplash, or have a gradual onset from repetitious activities such as working at a computer for hours everyday.
Muscle tension and scar tissue in injured areas can limit movement, restrict blood flow and cause trigger points, resulting in head and neck pain.
Among the long list of other headache causes it is important to remember that help is available.
Massage to the neck and head can relieve headaches by releasing tight, shortened muscles, trigger points and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding muscles and other structures). When muscles and fascia relax and become more pliable, circulation improves. This helps eliminate irritating waste products and brings oxygen and healing nutrients to tissues.
If posture is a factor, massage can help increase your awareness of tension patterns affecting your posture so that you can take steps to improve it. Massage can also be used as a preventative measure. It can help reduce accumulated physical and mental stress and over time reduce the frequency and intensity of episodes.
Always keep your massage therapist informed about your symptoms, medications and state of health so that she or he can tailor the massage to your specific headache pattern.
In some cases, chronic headaches result from multiple factors, which means a multifaceted approach that includes massage may be the most effective treatment. Following an exercise program, practicing yoga or pilates may help reduce muscle tension and improve posture and balance in your body. A Chiropractor can assess if the vertebrae in your spine are in alignment and a Naturopath may help if you feel your headaches are due to dietary, hormonal, allergy factors.