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‘way more than just a headache’

Migraines and Headaches are disabling conditions affecting many people’s lives. Almost everyone has suffered one or more at some time, seriously impacting their daily life and work. Headaches, although a common occurrence, are not normal and are usually a symptom of an underlying problem.

Migraines and Headaches can be triggered by multiple triggers or stimuli; missing meals, disturbed sleeping, fatigue, medications, stress or depression. Underlying health problems such as food intolerance, gut toxicity or allergies also can contribute significantly as well as muscular and skeletal dysfunction.

A Migraine or headache is often the result of or involves pain referred from problems associated with bones and muscles in the neck, shoulder and spine, along with several autonomic nervous system symptoms. Although for migraines sufferers, identifying triggers is not easy, as there are usually multiple, and they can vary even for the same person depending on the sensitivity of their body at the time.

Types of Headaches

Migraine or Vascular Headaches are way more than just a headache. They occur when the blood vessels that supply the brain and the muscles of the head and neck dilate or are constricted. They are defined by the International Headache Society as “..recurrent episodes of one-sided headache, of pulsating quality…which can be associated with other symptoms such as nausea, sensitivity to light and/or sound, visual auras and dizziness.“ And as migraine sufferers know, with a variety of symptoms displayed on different days.

There is not a ‘typical’ migraine. The experience of the condition is unique to the sufferer.

Tension Headaches produce a dull, constant pain across the head, including an aching neck or scalp sensitivity. The pain from tension headaches can be described as a vice-like grip due to the contracting of muscles at the temples, forehead or along the base of the skull and can be associated to emotional stress, physical activity or physical dysfunction or injury.

Causes of Headaches

Dean Watson, of The Watson Headache Approach, recent PhD research now shows that the top of the neck is actually a key factor in the development of a headache or migraine. Their perspective is that numerous headache and migraine types are underpinned by a sensitized brainstem and/or a disturbance at the second and third cervical (neck) spinal segment (C2-3) is responsible. Therefore, effective headache treatment must consist of treating the top of your neck, regardless of what other “triggers” might be.

New research is looking at the complex chemical changes in the brain associated with headache pain. Neurochemicals in the brain serve as neurotransmitters, sending messages to one another. These neurochemical changes observed in headache suffers may be in response to muscle tension in the neck or scalp. O, it also may be possible that muscle tension is occurring because of already altered neurochemical levels.

The Benefits of Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy is a very beneficial complimentary treatment for Migraine and Headache sufferers. Massage helps to relieve muscle tension, unbind shortened muscles, relax spasms and release the tension around the shoulders, neck and head. Massage has the ability to relieve physical and emotional tension, increase serotonin levels (thought to decease sensitivity to pain) and effectively reduces stress and anxiety.

A massage can effectively improve circulation, increasing blood flow which eases pressure on the nerves and blood vessels that supply them. This in turn can relieve pressure around the occipital, shoulders, neck and scalp. Massage can also quieten the nervous system, improve digestion and helps regulate breathing thus helping to deal with other symptoms caused by triggers.

Massages for treatment of migraines and headaches differ with each individual. A variety of different techniques may be required depending on each individual’s pathology.

  • Trigger Point Therapy and Deep Tissue Therapy may be used to alleviate symptoms, along with relaxing the muscles in the neck and upper body (Thoracic area); trapezius, rhomboid and muscles of the scapula.

  • It is important to relax the muscles along the length of the spine. The vertebrae, spinal cord and nerve roots are part of the spinal column. There is a reflex connection between every organ system and the spine, therefore, massage assists with balancing meridians, quietening the nervous system and supporting the alignment of the spine.

  • Massaging and releasing the tension in the sacrum at the base of spine due to stress or bad posture habits will assist in relaxing all the back muscles to compliment the work received on the neck head area.

Massage is a beneficial holistic therapy for migraines and headaches. Combined with traditional medicine, managed lifestyle factors and continued dietary considerations you should feel immense relief and flexibility within your body, shoulders and neck, helping reduce the number of migraines and relieve the pain.

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