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Let’s talk tension!

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.


Metropol caught up with Oxford Women’s Health Massage Therapist, Stacey Harris, to find out more.

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.


Making families

Metropol caught up with fertility specialist, Dr Pete Benny, who has just returned to New Zealand as Genea Oxford Fertility’s Medical Director, about the options available for making families.

What attracted you to working in this field?
I’d always enjoyed science, particularly learning about endocrinology (hormones). The field of fertility applies science to helping people have a family.

Many women have spent their entire lives trying not to get pregnant, then they’re shocked when they can’t easily have a baby. What are some of the reasons why we’re struggling to get pregnant these days?
The prevalence of infertility in each age group is the same as 20 years ago, or longer.

The difference now is that people are delaying pregnancy, so the age they are trying to get pregnant has increased.

In the past, there wasn’t the technology available to help. Now there is.

What are some of the biggest myths when it comes to fertility?
A major fallacy is that if people try IVF, it will be instantly successful.

Many people believe they can delay starting a family because of their faith in IVF. Sadly it doesn’t always work.

Another common myth is that infertility is primarily a female problem. We know now that it is just as likely to stem from male issues.

How long should couples wait before they seek medical advice?
If you’re under 35 and there is no obvious problem, seek advice if you’re not pregnant within a year of trying to have a baby.

If you’re over 35, see someone within six months. But always seek advice if something just doesn’t feel right or you are worried.

Should we be thinking about fertility well before we actively want to get pregnant?
I think we should all be more aware of our fertility and the things that impact upon it, particularly lifestyle and environment.

We should have a plan for our lives and if having a family is important, then allow time for that to happen.

What are the treatment options available in New Zealand for fertility?
Treatments depend on the cause of infertility.

The first issue to consider is your lifestyle.

For example, poor nutrition or too much stress won’t increase your chances of becoming pregnant.

Other issues, such as endometriosis or lack of ovulation, may need to be addressed to allow conception.

There are various options available including IVF to fertilise the eggs; fertilisation using micro-injection (ICSI), or identifying the right embryos with PGT-A.

If we can’t treat someone with IVF, then we explore donor eggs or sperm, donor embryos or even surrogacy. We can also recover sperm directly from the testes, if necessary.

What are the benefits of non-medical approaches in increasing the chance of pregnancy – such as relaxation techniques and meditation?
It’s difficult to prove that these methods treat infertility.

They do however help people deal with the delays that are often associated with treatment and may give people time to achieve a natural conception.

Such techniques can also help people deal with the stresses of not achieving a pregnancy.

What’s the most fulfilling part of what you do?
It is watching people grow, while achieving their goal of having a family.

I get a huge amount of joy from seeing them fulfil their desire for a family.