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What is causing your headaches?

Headaches, they're a real pain in the .....head! Different kinds of headaches can be caused by different things, and not all are treated the same in order to get relief. So which types of headaches should you see your massage therapist for?

1. Tension headaches

A tension headache can feel like a dull, ache all over your head, with it sometimes radiating into the neck, forehead, scalp and shoulder muscles.

Anyone can get a tension headache, and they’re often triggered by stress, however there is no throbbing sensation with a tension headache.

A massage can provide a longer term relief than over the counter medication by focusing on opening the diaphragm, and treating the neck and shoulders providing instant relief from tension headaches, followed by focusing on the breathe, ensuring adequate water is being drunk and generally taking it easy for a few days will eliminate the headache.

2. Muscle tension headaches

A muscle tension headache can present in a number of ways, pain in the sinuses, toothache, aching and throbbing in the mid back, pain under the base of the skull, pain across the forehead just to name a few.

Many things cause tension in the muscle resulting in headaches - body posture, poor technique in training, overtraining or over activation of upper body muscles, stress, poor breathing patterns and dehydration of the muscles.

Sometimes pain can be felt as a headache although the tension is held in muscles stabilising the neck or mid back, so if we simply massaged your head the pain would remain.

Massage can be a very effective tool in order to relieve tension headaches caused by muscle tension. By talking with you about where the headache is presenting and the actions leading up to getting a headache we can decipher where to begin treatment to reduce the symptoms. Following up with adequate water, an epsom salt bath and alternating heat and ice treatments should see you pain free in a short period of time.

3. Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches create a severe burning and piercing pain occurring around or behind one eye or on one side of the face at a time. Swelling, redness, flushing, nasal congestion, eye tearing and sweating can sometimes occur on the affected side.

Cluster headaches occur in a series, with each one lasting from 15 minutes to three hours, with up to repetitions. After one headache resolves, another will soon follow.

For a cluster headache it is recommended to see a doctor to get clearance for massage.

Doctors aren’t sure what causes cluster headaches, but they do know some effective ways to treat the symptoms, including certain medications to stay on top of symptoms.

4. Migraines

Migraine pain is an intense pulsing from deep within your head. This pain can last for days. Migraines can be so severe they limits your ability to carry out normal duties. Migraines are throbbing and usually one-sided. People with migraine headaches are often sensitive to light and sound. Nausea and vomiting also usually occur.

Certain environmental factors, such as sleep disruption, dehydration, skipped meals, some foods, hormone fluctuations, and exposure to chemicals are common migraine triggers.

Migraines are often treated with medication.

The severity of migraines can increase due to holding of breath and tension created by shortening through neck and shoulders. This secondary pain created by migraines can be alleviated with massage, which can help reduce the intensity of the migraine.

Seeking a qualified remedial massage therapist is important for migraines as overworking the muscles can amplify the migraine.

The most common secondary headaches

Secondary headaches are a symptom of something else that is going on in your body. If the trigger of your secondary headache is ongoing, it can become chronic. Treating the primary cause generally brings headache relief.

4. Allergy or sinus headaches

Headaches sometimes happen as a result of an allergic reaction. The pain from these headaches is often focused in your sinus area and in the front of your head.

People who have chronic seasonal allergies or sinusitis are susceptible to these kinds of headaches.

Sinus headaches are treated by thinning out the mucus that builds up and causes sinus pressure.

A sinus headache can also be a symptom of a sinus infection. In these cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection and relieve your headache and other symptoms.

5. Hormone headaches

Women commonly experience headaches that are linked to hormonal fluctuations. Menstruation, birth control pills, and pregnancy all affect your estrogen levels, which can cause a headache. Those headaches associated specifically with the menstrual cycle are also known as menstrual migraines. These can occur right before, during, or right after menses, as well as during ovulation.

Relaxation techniques, massage, yoga, acupuncture, and eating a modified diet may help prevent hormone headaches.

Massage will help by down regulating the stress hormones, allowing the body to rebalance.

6. Caffeine headaches

Caffeine affects blood flow to your brain. Having too much can give you a headache, as can quitting caffeine “cold turkey.” People who have frequent migraines are at risk of triggering a headache due to their caffeine use.

When you’re used to exposing your brain to a certain amount of caffeine, a stimulant, each day, you might get a headache if you don’t get your caffeine fix. This may be because caffeine changes your brain chemistry, and withdrawal from it can trigger a headache.

Adequate water intake, magnesium supplements and sufficient sleep can help with symptoms from caffeine headaches.

7. Exertion headaches

Exertion headaches happen quickly after periods of intense physical activity. Weight lifting, running, and sexual intercourse are all common triggers for an exertion headache. It’s thought that these activities cause increased blood flow to your skull, which can lead to a throbbing headache on both sides of your head.

An exertion headache shouldn’t last too long. This type of headache usually resolves within a few minutes or several hours.

Rest and fluid intake, including the use of a form of electrolyte to replace lost fluids is recommended for exertion headaches, some over the counter medicine like panadol can relieve symptoms.

If you develop exertion headaches, make sure to see your doctor. In some cases, they may be a sign of a serious underlying medication condition.

8. Hypertension headaches

High blood pressure can cause you to have a headache, and this kind of headache signals an emergency. This occurs when your blood pressure becomes dangerously high.

A hypertension headache will usually occur on both sides of your head and is typically worse with any activity. It often has a pulsating quality. You may also experience changes in vision, numbness or tingling, nosebleeds, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

If you think you’re experiencing a hypertension headache, you should seek immediate medical attention.

You’re more likely to develop this type of headache if you’re treating high blood pressure.

These types of headaches typically go away soon after the blood pressure is under better control. They shouldn’t reoccur as long as high blood pressure continues to be managed.

9. Rebound headaches

Rebound headaches, also known as medication overuse headaches, can feel like a dull, tension-type headache, or they may feel more intensely painful, like a migraine.

You may be more susceptible to this type of headache if you frequently use over the counter pain relievers. Overuse of these medications leads to more headaches, rather than fewer.

Rebound headaches are likelier to occur any time OTC medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are used more than 15 days out of a month. They’re also more common with medications that contain caffeine.

Massage focusing on long effleurage strokes can help the body to release the toxicity within the body by promoting circulation.

10. Post-traumatic headaches

Post-traumatic headaches can develop after any type of head injury. These headaches feel like migraines or tension-type headaches, and usually last up to 6 to 12 months after your injury occurs. They can become chronic.

Triptans, sumatriptan (Imitrex), beta-blockers, and amitriptyline are often prescribed to control the pain from these headaches.

However in some cases a qualified Remedial Massage therapist can assist with reducing the symptoms, which in turn reduces the amount of medication needed to be taken. Always look for both qualification and current membership with an accredited association when seeking a remedial massage therapist.

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