There are many kinds of headaches. Some are brought on by stress, tense muscles, and poor life choices. Others are symptoms of something worse. Please, if you are experiencing a severe headache that has lasted for more than 72 hours, or is worse than anything you’ve ever experienced before, take yourself to a physician.
For the milder headaches, the ones formed from stress or tension, Massage Therapy can help. In many situations of stress, the shoulder and neck muscles tend to tighten up, and we clench our jaws. Our backs and necks take on a hunched posture, and we feel like we’re carrying all the weight of the world. When this happens, the tension in our neck and back can cut off blood-flow to our head, causing headaches to form. Quite often, these headaches tend to feel like a band around the head or localized around the eyes.
After you’ve booked your appointment to see your Massage Therapist, one thing you can do to relax your back and neck is to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Let your arms drop to your sides and just hang. Roll your shoulders and unclench your jaw. Continue breathing deeply and releasing all your air, as much as you can. This can help to activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System, or the ‘Rest and Digest’ part of the nervous system. Activating this can cause your body to release stress and de-activate the ‘Fight or Flight’ mode that stress puts us into.
When you go see your Massage Therapist, they will work on your neck, back, shoulders, and, if you’re comfortable with it, the muscles of your jaw. Releasing the tension in these muscles will restore blood-flow to your head and reduce the severity of these headaches. Regular visits to your Massage Therapist, and reducing the sources of stress in your life, can help to ease stress-related headaches. Also, relaxing activities such as soothing baths, yoga, or walking, can help to release the tension in your neck and shoulders. If you are able, more vigorous activities such as weightlifting, running, or sports can also be beneficial, as they keep the shoulders, back, and neck moving. Please consult a doctor before engaging in any physical activity you may not be prepared for.
For sufferers of migraines, there is some evidence to support Massage Therapy as a means to help alleviate the symptoms, but naturally, every sufferer of migraines has a unique experience. One way to halt a migraine in its tracks at home is to employ Cryotherapy. If one applies cold to the base of the neck and warmth to the feet – ice pack on the back of the neck and feet in a tub of warm water – this can draw the blood out of the head and constrict the blood vessels. Please employ care with the use of ice. Always wrap the ice pack in a towel, and never apply for more than 10 minutes, so as to avoid frostbite.