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Self-Massage for Headache Relief

Self-Massage for Headache Relief

Monday, June 05, 2023

It is likely that everyone will suffer from a headache at some point in their lives. There are numerous causes of headaches, which range in severity. If you frequently experience mild to moderate headaches, stiff shoulders, and neck muscles may be a contributing factor.

According to statistics, one in six Americans, or about 45 million people annually, experiences severe headaches. In the US, a migraine or headache-related emergency room visit occurs every 10 seconds.

Spending on over-the-counter drugs to treat headaches and migraines exceeds $1 billion annually. Over $13 billion is spent annually on lost productivity as a result of migraines.

So, how do you get relief from the pain of a headache? Have you ever wondered if there are things you can do yourself to relieve the tension? We will discuss the different types of headaches and different self-massage techniques to help take away the annoying pain a headache brings.

Types of Headaches

There are a few "usual suspects" that are typically to blame for the bulk of tension headaches, despite the fact that a wide variety of muscles can cause tension headaches. The typical headache pain patterns that these muscles produce are listed below:

1. Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) Headaches

The prominent vertical muscle that protrudes from your neck when you turn your head to the side is called the sternocleidomastoid muscle, or SCM for short. Its main uses are to bend the neck (look down) and rotate the neck (look left and right).

Headaches behind the eye and close to the temple are the most common symptoms of the SCM. Even vertigo-like symptoms and dizziness might occur in extreme circumstances.

2. Trapezius Headaches

The trapezius muscles, sometimes known as the "traps," are attached at the shoulder and top of the neck and cover a large portion of the upper back in the form of a diamond.

The most troublesome trigger points are frequently those at the muscular attachments by the left and right corners of this muscle. The most typical "coat hanger" pattern for tension headaches caused by these trapezius trigger points is one that starts behind the ear, moves up the side of the neck, wraps around the side of the head, and eventually concentrates at the temple.

3. Suboccipital Headaches

Some of the more delicate head motions, such as glancing up or giving a passing nod to a friend, are controlled by the tiny muscles at the base of the skull. Chronic suboccipital tension is frequently the outcome of compensatory behavior brought on by a forward head posture or other structural problems.

Ever notice how, when working hard, you lean toward your computer? The suboccipital muscles are frequently compressed during this frequently occurring behavior.

Another exercise that continuously uses these muscles is road cycling. As the torso lowers and the suboccipitals contract to lift the head and eyes to look forward, the cyclist's arms draw in toward the body to increase aerodynamics. Chronic tension and headaches can result from spending hours in this position frequently.

Massage Techniques You Can Use to Relieve Headaches

1. Self-Massage for SCM Headaches

Fortunately, self-massage of the SCM is very effective. Here are the steps:

  • Simply pinch your SCM between your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers while looking to the other side of the SCM you wish to massage. 
  • Now return your head to its neutral posture, which will help the muscle relax. 
  • Using your opposing hands, carefully "walk" up and down the muscle, sometimes stopping to massage and pinch the muscle between your fingers softly.

2. Self-Massage for Trapezius Headaches

Although it's not nearly as simple to self-massage the trapezius muscles as the SCM, you can still accomplish it. A couple of techniques have been proven effective for self-massaging to relieve trapezius headaches:

  • TheraCane or a BackBuddy are two examples of self-massage tools that can be used to reach those hard-to-reach places. Since the extremities of both of these tools are hooked, you may apply very precise pressure to the trapezius trigger points that frequently appear close to the shoulder. 

The drawback of these gadgets is that applying pressure will usually require you to use your upper body muscles. The upper body should ideally be completely relaxed.

  • Having access to a squat rack for weightlifting is necessary for the second method of self-massaging for trapezius headaches. When using this method, you should put the bar at a height that is just below your shoulders. After that, add weight to the bar as usual. Finally, squat just deep enough to tuck your shoulder under the bar by turning your body perpendicular to it. 

From this position, you can relax your upper body by using your knees to press your trapezius into the bar. If you want some padding, place a towel between your shoulder and the bar.

3. Self-Massage for Suboccipital Headaches

The suboccipitals are probably the hardest to self-massage successfully, but fear not—here are a few methods that can help ease the pain:

  • You will need a long sock and a few tennis balls for this first technique. Put the tennis balls into the sock and secure them by tying the sock to prevent movement. Now, while lying on the floor, straddle your spine with the tennis balls by placing the sock beneath your neck, right below the back of your head. Now relax and let gravity take over. To concentrate the pressure on various regions, you can occasionally readjust.
  • Simply stretching the suboccipital muscles is an alternate strategy. All you need for this stretch is a wall. If your head is not already touching the wall when you stand with your back flush against it, slowly move it back until it does. This may already be a stretch enough. Simply maintain the position for 20 to 30 seconds before relaxing for 10 seconds.

If you need a deeper stretch, bring your head to the wall and tuck your chin down toward your throat. Hold for 20–30 seconds, then release for 10 seconds. (This chin-tuck method can also be used in conjunction with the tennis ball strategy mentioned above.)

4. Self-Massage Techniques for Relieving Headaches of Unknown Causes 

  • Be sure to hydrate well both before and after completing these protocols.
  • Firmly press your thumbs into the bridge of your nose, slightly below your brow. Inhale deeply after holding for 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise five times.
  • Place your thumbs with the pads extremely close to the bridge of your nose, just below your forehead. Make a forceful upward push toward your forehead. Maintain this pressure for ten seconds while taking slow, deep breaths. Repeat this exercise five times.
  • Pinch your eyebrows with both hands and hold for 10 seconds while taking a deep breath. Repeat this exercise five times.
  • For 10 seconds, apply consistent pressure while pressing your middle three fingers firmly into the sides of your temples and adding a little circular motion while breathing deeply. Repeat this exercise five times.

Hawk Ridge Therapeutic for Headache Relief

​​In most cases, regular movement (yoga, exercise, etc.) and heat packs are sufficient to relieve chronic pain by easing muscular tension and decompressing the spine. If you've done that and your tension headaches haven't improved, speak with a local massage therapist who specializes in deep tissue or medical massage for an evaluation and therapy.

Both the pain of a headache and its occurrence can be lessened or avoided with massage therapy. Additionally, calming down a tense, nervous system as a whole can provide significant relief.

Our goal at Hawk Ridge Therapeutic is to help facilitate the natural healing process with active listening and therapeutic touch. Each person who walks through our doors has different needs and goals. We believe in working collaboratively to develop a unique and individualized treatment plan based on history and desired outcomes. 

If you are struggling with getting relief from headaches, contact us today to schedule your massage and start your wellness journey!