Headaches and Migraines are extremely common. In fact, second to head colds, headaches are considered the most common human ailment.
Headaches are affecting an increasing number of Canadians each year, disturbing their health, quality of life and productivity.
While most headaches are mild, temporary annoyances, others are severe and debilitating. To differentiate between benign and more serious headaches, it’s important to understand the different causes and types.
What kind of headache do you suffer from?
Tension HA: The most common type of headache and comes from tight muscles. It is a result of trigger points (TrPs) and other myofascial pain syndromes. It usually begins later in the afternoon. The pain is constant, diffuse and on both sides of the head. A person can also experience loss of appetite, nausea, vertigo or ringing in the ears if it is severe.
Cervicogenic HA: Also originates from structures in the neck. It is usually one-sided and near the forehead. It can have associated neck and shoulder pain.
Spinally Mediated HA: Caused by TrPs that are found in the muscles of the neck and thorax. TrPs in ligaments, discs and joints of the spine can also contribute to this type of spinal dysfunction. The muscles on either side of the spine can be hyperactive and irritable, hypertoned, and perhaps cool to the touch.
Temperomandibular HA: Originates from mechanical dysfunction in the jaw. The pain can be experienced in the teeth, temporal area, forehead, ears and /or behind the eyes. It can be associated with stress, clenching the jaw, grinding the teeth at night, poor posture or trauma.
Post-Traumatic HA: May occur after an emotionally stressful event or a physical injury such as a motor vehicle accident. An example is a whiplash induced headache.
Migraine: May range in signs and symptoms but is commonly experienced on one side of the head and can be very debilitating. Migraines may be associated with visual disturbances and sensitivity to light and sound. They may be triggered by stress, medication, certain scents, allergies to food, and postural dysfunction.
Mixed HA: Begins with an underlying tension HA and then compounds with periods of migraine symptoms. If it develops into near-daily headaches it can have gastrointestinal symptoms.
While serious causes of headache are much less common, in a small number of cases severe headaches may be a warning sign of a more serious disorder (ie. very high blood pressure, bleeding in the brain, stroke, infection, tumour etc.).
If you are experiencing any of the following signs or symptoms associated with your headache please see your doctor immediately:
- Older than 50 years of age with no previous history of headache
- Severe or abrupt headache
- Increase in the intensity or frequency of headaches
- Severe headache during or immediately after physical exertion or straining
- Headache with fever and neck stiffness
- Headache accompanied by inflamed, clogged sinuses
- Recent head trauma
- Headache accompanied by confusion or difficulty speaking
- Change in vision (double vision, loss of vision)
- Any neurologic symptoms such as change in coordination, speech or strength
- Medication that can increase risk of bleeding such as blood thinners
Massage Therapy for Headache Relief
Research has proven Registered Massage Therapy to be effective in eliminating headaches and providing lasting pain relief.
Headache treatments are uniquely designed for each patient and combine a variety of techniques including myofascial release, trigger point release, Swedish massage, relaxation techniques, postural training and corrective exercises.
For chronic headache sufferers, your massage therapist may ask that you keep a headache journal to help identify the frequency, intensity, and any potential triggers that may be contributing to your headaches.
At the Elements of Health Centre our goal is optimum health. We hope that each patient leaves their treatment session with a greater understanding of how to manage their individual headache symptoms and live pain free.