For many, tension headaches have become an unfortunate side-effect of modern-day living, as we find ourselves at desk jobs and staring at computer screens for long periods of time. The good news is there are exercises and techniques that can help to relieve and prevent the pain.
Tell us about tension headaches and what causes them?
I’d say up to 70 percent of my clients have headache issues at times and the vast majority of these would be tension headaches.
We spend a lot of our time with our head in a forward position, which tightens and stretches all the muscles in the back of the neck, and shortens the muscles at the front.
We see this with people working at computers, reading books, studying, or on phones.
How do we know we’re experiencing a tension headache or if it’s something more serious?
As a massage therapist, I’m not qualified to make a medical diagnosis, but I always look for red flags.
A tension headache is more likely to be worse at the end of the day.
They happen when you’ve been working long hours, are under stress, have been grinding your teeth or experiencing muscle tension.
But headaches can also indicate an ear or tooth infection, or a migraine, which is a completely different ballpark and you need a doctor to diagnose it.
If in doubt, see your GP, especially if you’re experiencing double-vision or dizziness.
How does the tightened muscle actually trigger the headache?
A thick band of connective tissue connects muscles in the front of our forehead to muscles in the back.
If you have a restriction, like a tight muscle in the back, then it can affect the muscles in the front, causing headaches.
What techniques can you offer at Oxford Women’s Health to ease tension headache discomfort?
Primarily deep tissue massage and relaxation techniques.
I work on the shoulder and upper trapezius muscles that go through the shoulders and right up into the neck.
I aim to stimulate the client’s own relaxation responses and there are other techniques, like dry needling and cross-fibre techniques, that can be used.
What can we do at home to avoid headaches?
If I get a headache, I don’t use a pillow if I’m lying on my back.
It gives the muscles a chance to relax.
Exercises can strengthen the muscles in the back of the neck to balance any issues and drink water, it’s good for you.
Hydration is key.
Above all, get up and move every hour for a few minutes. It’s about doing little things. Prioritise yourself.
Taking 10 minutes out regularly during your day is important!
What are you working on in 2020?
My primary focus is the connection between physical and mental health.
I’m in my second year of a Graduate Diploma studying psychology and intend to work with people who have chronic pain conditions.
I believe we can’t isolate our emotional health from our physical health.
Our biology, along with the environmental and psychological factors that come into play in our everyday lives, all contribute to our health.
I start my Master’s degree next year and want to hone in on the body-mind connection. It’s a fascinating thing to be studying.