A migraine for a year, daily pain with no reprieve and neck muscles so tight nothing has released the tension. These were the symptoms shared by one of my recent clients. Additionally, she was experiencing an inability to sleep through the night and an inability to take deep breaths. None of the over the counter medications seemed to help her pain. We assessed her symptoms, talked about patterns around her headaches and came up with a plan. In her case, a displaced rib head was to blame. She has not experienced headaches since. 

Headaches can be the cause of insidious pain and discomfort. Treating headache pain can be a complicated process because so many factors may contribute to your discomfort.  If you experience headache pain, you know exactly what I am talking about. However, what can cause headaches may surprise you. 

We look at several factors when trying to determine the cause of headache pain. Time of day can be a big clue. Do you have a headache when you wake up? You may be clenching or grinding your teeth. Mid-morning headache? This may be caused by the foods you may have eaten. Forget your morning cup of coffee? Caffeine withdrawal is certainly a cause. Mid-afternoon headaches may be brought on by eye strain and an outdated glasses prescription. Evening headaches, too much sitting at a computer or device in front of you may cause overused muscles to contract, restricting blood flow or pinching nerves. All of these time related issues may be your headache source.

Duration can also be a clue. Headaches lasting longer than 24 hours and related to predictable monthly cycles may be related to hormonal imbalances. Seasonal allergies can produce headache symptoms that last over a period of time. Headed to the gym for the first time after taking a break may also trigger headache pain. Been in a car crash, had a slip or fall, hit your head so hard you were concussed? All of these can lead to whiplash and muscle strain producing long term tension in your head and neck. The list of causes are numerous which is why it is important to really understand the circumstances around your pain. 

Tension headaches are usually caused by several muscles. The usual suspects are; the masseter muscle (a small jaw muscle), the upper trapezius ( the muscle that attaches your shoulder to your neck), the scalenes (the “I slept wrong and now I cannot turn my head” muscle), the suboccipitals (muscles located at the base of your skull) splenius capitis and semispinalis capitis (the muscles that help keep your head anchored to your torso). 

So how, as skilled practitioners, do we know what to treat? Simple, each one of these muscles has a very specific referral pattern. Where you feel your headache pain gives away the most likely muscles. For instance, if you feel your headache pain run up your neck, loop around your ear and end up behind that same side eye, upper trapezius are the first place to look. Pain at the back of your head? Suboccipitals or splenius capitis are great treatment options. Unexplained tooth pain? First stop, masseter muscle. Understanding what you are feeling and where, may be the key to unlocking the mystery of your headache pain.

With so many different reasons and a vast array of muscles to choose from, working with a Medical Massage Practitioner who has studied the treatment of headache issues becomes critical in your journey for headache pain relief. The Resident Therapists at Body Innervation Massage can help you uncover the soft tissue dysfunction that may be leading to your issue. If you are interested in setting up a 60 minute assessment and consultation, feel free to contact us at www.bodyinnervation.com or by phone or text at (920)750-8544. Mention this article to get our special introductory rate of $45.