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Tension headaches

Get rid of your tension headache

There is nothing worse than knowing you have a headache coming on – especially ones that are caused by Tension-type headaches (TTH), which feel like a dull or heavy, non-pulsating band of pain; usually on both sides of the head. The name comes from an erroneous belief that overly tight muscles are the main reason for the headache.

Tension-type headaches can literally stop you in your tracks, and are the most common headache; even more common than migraines.  This is where massage therapy can assist you, to reduce your tension headaches, and it has zero side effects in comparison to recommended medications.
Our massage therapists are trained to find areas in the head, neck and shoulders which feel like a palpable nodule within a tight area of muscle, or a tender spot which radiates up into the neck and head. Tension headaches have been linked to these areas; initially these come and go, but slowly begins to set it and the headaches become more regular.  This occurs because in these areas receptors in the skin and muscle have pick up there is tension in this area; it feeds into our nervous system and makes it more sensitive (1).
All of our therapists have been trained to identify these ‘tender’ spots and use many techniques such as light to deep strokes; holding on the tender spot until it reduces; and using muscle energy techniques to help desensitize those tender areas.

​These techniques demonstrate that working on those areas can reduce your tension headaches. In a study by Moraska et al, 2015(1) found after 12 x 45 minute massage sessions over six weeks that massage therapy was effective in reducing tension headaches.

While massage can assist and start the ball rolling for relief, what can you do to help speed up the process?
Even though it is hard to pinpoint exactly why we get tension headaches there are a few things which may be causing them such as:

  • Stress
  • Sustained postures
  • Overwork
  • Skipping meals
  • Perfectionist personality

Tension-type headaches can also bring on fatigue, neck ache and stiffness, anxiety/depression.

So how can we help you?

At Top Notch Massage Therapy, not only can we do hands-on work as described in the study above, but we can also assist with you obtaining the right management strategies such as body awareness and recognizing tension areas. Top Notch can provide you stress management with breathing, meditation or choosing an activity/exercise which you enjoy. If you do identify with perfectionism, or find yourself internalizing emotion, then seeking help to discover the reason behind this way of thinking can be helpful – counselling or hypnotherapy are beneficial ways to help with making changes to approach your thoughts and mindset.

The general aim with tension headaches is making changes to your lifestyle and addressing those factors which may be perpetuating those headaches; so that you can avoid using medication as a treatment.
If you find yourself being woken up from sleep by any type of headache, or find they are getting worse, more frequent and despite the appropriate therapy please consult your GP as soon as possible.  

1. Moraska, A. F., Stenerson, L., Butryn, N., Krutsch, J. P., Schmiege, S. J., & Mann, J. D. (2015). Myofascial trigger point-focused head and neck massage for recurrent tension-type headache: A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 31(2), 159–168. http://doi.org/10.1097/AJP.0000000000000091

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