A tension headache is a cause of tightness or muscular tension due to associated trigger points and asymmetry of the upper body, specifically the shoulders and neck muscles.
Headaches are categorized by the International Headache Society (IHS) depending on their signs and symptoms. Primary headaches are considered a condition, such as a tension headache or migraine. Secondary headaches usually result from an underlying pathology like hypertension or head trauma and there may be more than one sign and symptom. (doctor referral for massage therapy)
Causes of tension headaches are usually trigger points that cause a referral muscular tension headache, and perpetuating factors include: trauma to the head or motor vehicle accident (such as whiplash), muscle over-loading due to our imbalanced postural habits at work, and emotional stress, which is also a leading cause of tension headaches. Symptoms in the affected area often occur bilaterally and the referral pattern of a trigger point can accompany muscle pain and discomfort from the shoulders up towards the head and neck. The onset of tension headaches is typically later in the day, once the trigger points have been activated.
Massage therapy has an important role to improve a patient’s relief with tension headaches. During the onset of tension headaches, relaxation massage is recommended and once the patient is more at ease the therapist can start working at underlying issues like tight upper shoulder muscles and posterior muscle of the neck. Self-care for patients is done by modifying their work station and finding the cause that is triggering the tension headache, and by becoming more aware of their posture and ergonomics at work.
Stretching tight muscles on the neck and shoulders, and every day exercise will promote better blood flow and healthier tissue over the affected area.