Anyone who has experienced a headache, or witness someone who has, can sympathize with the suffering endured. At some point in their lives 90% of the population has endured headache. For most people pain is infrequent and short-lived. But for many, headache is chronic and recurring. For more than half these people, the pain is so consuming they are side-lined from work, play and even sleep until the headache subsides.
Types of headaches include vascular (migraines), muscle contraction (tension) and inflammatory (sinus infection or, rarely, meningitis). Some headaches are caused by Trigger Points, as described by Dr. Janet Travell and David Simons. Trigger points are knots in muscles that over time develop referral pain within and sometimes beyond the aggravated muscle.
Many migraine and tension headaches begin with tightness and discomfort in the neck, jaw and shoulders. Tightening muscle involuntarily is one way our body deals with pain. For many, clenching and tightening to brace against emotional and physical discomfort becomes habitual. We relinquish the ability to relax and release tension.
The type of headache determines the most appropriate intervention. Medications can help with some types of headaches, but there are many pharmaceutical-free options. The use of hot or cold packs, saunas or a hot bath can reduce muscle tension, along with biofeedback and relaxation-inducement techniques. Physical fitness and postural training and awareness can help prevent headaches, without the side-effects induced by some medications.
Massage therapy applied by a skilled practitioner can ease muscle tension and assist sinus drainage and congestion. Research suggests massage therapy can beneficially enact endorphins – the body’s natural pain killers – while positively affecting mood, state and train anxiety