bodymindspiritworks   LLC

  integrative bodywork
  & headaches:

   an integral approach
   to treating & eliminating headaches

In 2002 Boulder College of Massage Therapy sponsored a study* with subjects who suffered from chronic and severe tension headaches, at least 2 to 3 per week for the previous six months. After 4 weeks of specific massage treatments (compared to 4 weeks of no treatment) the subjects showed both immediate and lasting improvement.

The number of tension headaches that clients experienced dropped almost by half the very first week of massage treatments and by the end of the 4 weeks had decreased in frequency even further. Most of the clients also reported a decrease in the severity of the tension headaches when they did occur.

The conclusion states, "pain associated with chronic tension headache can be alleviated through specific massage therapy treatments directed at cranial and cervical muscles." which is highly encouraging for anyone suffering from chronic headaches due to muscular tension.

It was also noted that when a subject of the headache study entered the massage session currently experiencing a headache episode they always left 30 minutes later with no pain.

         (Reference: Quinn, Chandler and Moraska, "Massage Therapy and Frequency
of Chronic Tension Headaches"
         in American Journal of Public Health, October 2002)

Frequent headaches are not normal and, with a little proactive planning, there is much that can be done to manage and even prevent them without the use of medications. There are several main types of headaches:

  • throbbing, pulsing pain usually on one side
  • typically forehead and temple/above ear area
  • pain builds over 1-2 hours and then becomes more generalized as it declines
  • can last several hours to all day, usually only during the day
  • persons often immobilized by intensity of pain
  • 80% of migraines are accompanied by nausea, 50% by vomiting
  • light and sound sensitivity common symptoms
    Mixed Headaches
  • a tension headache that leads to a migraine
  • the tension headache starts first and the chemicals produced from the pain of it create conditions for a migraine to develop.
    Muscle Contraction Tension Headaches
  • the most common type of headache
  • may be from mild to moderate, person can usually continue with daily activities
  • vice-like tightening feeling or pressing around the head that is not throbbing or pulsing
  • typically on both sides
  • usually last about a day, but can range from 30-minutes to seven days
  • physical activity does not make headache worse or better
  • no vomiting
  • nausea, light sensitivity or sound sensitivity: no more than one of these is present
    Cervicogenic Headaches
  • cause by inflammation/dysfunction in the facet joints of the neck vertebrae
  • most commonly on one side only
  • pain arises from the neck and radiates upward
  • pain is dull and aching, not sharp or throbbing
  • headache pain can be anywhere in the head
  • pain is made worse by movement
    Cluster Headaches
  • short in duration, severe in intensity
  • often described as feeling like an icepick behind the eye or in the temple
  • come in grouped episodes (clusters)
  • movement can decrease the pain
  • can be nocturnal
  • 80% of those with cluster headaches are heavy smokers

Therapeutic approaches to treating headaches:

Muscle-specific massage therapy for muscle contraction tension headaches
Therapeutic massage and trigger-point therapy focusing on specific neck and shoulder muscle groups provides immediate relief during an acute headache episode. A four-week course (two 30-min session/week) of the same therapy protocol provides a lasting reduction of the frequency and severity of chronic tension headaches.

Craniosacral Therapy for migraine and tension headaches
A light-touch modality that helps normalize the craniosacral system and release meningeal and dural tube restrictions, allowing the structures of the central nervous system to resume optimal levels of functioning.

Cold Stone Therapy for migraine and vascular headaches
The facial application of cold marble stones that contour along key headache sites, plus essential oil blends known to relieve headache pain, plus the use of warmth, relieves pain effectively and naturally.

Neuro-muscular Therapy for cervicogenic headaches
Specific therapy to remove pressure from the facet joints of the upper cervical spine and restore as much motion as possible relieves pain caused by muscle-tightness cervical compression. Passive stretching and assisted rotaion restores range of motion and stretches tightened muscles.

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