Pain in the Neck: Tips to Relieve and Prevent Headaches

Pain in the Neck: Tips to Relieve and Prevent Headaches

Headache disorders range from mild to debilitating illnesses that can develop into lifelong disabilities. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates nearly half to three quarters of all adults worldwide suffered from headaches in the past year. The WHO considers headache disorders an imperative public health matter, ranking it among the top 10 (and top 5 in women) most disabling worldwide health problems. Massage therapy in conjunction with medication, lifestyle changes and self-care, can offer relief for treating and preventing headache disorders. This article will cover the most common types of headaches, symptoms, causes, and several ways to alleviate and prevent headaches using different types of massage therapy.

Headaches are disorders of the nervous system producing pain in the head and neck. They are characterized as primary, illnesses themselves, and secondary, symptoms of other conditions. The most prevalent and wide spread headache disorders are tension-type (TTH), migraine and medication-overuse (MOH).

Tension-type headaches (TTH) are the most common primary headache disorder, a result of tense muscles, described as a constant pain and pressure around the head, lasting a few hours to several days. Triggered by stress or musculoskeletal problems, muscles in the head and neck tightly contract. The blood vessels relaying oxygen are constricted, and nutrients are blocked, resulting in insufficient blood supply and muscle spasms.

Migraines are the second most common form of primary headache disorders. Caused by blood vessel enlargement and the release of pain-producing inflammatory chemicals around the nerves, migraines are recurrent, life-long and characterized by attacks that include: moderate to severe pain, nausea, intense throbbing, blurred vision and sensory disturbances like light and sound sensitivity, lasting hours to three days. Sufferers identify triggers such as allergies, light, noise, scents, stress, smoking, alcohol, tension headaches and hormone fluctuation.

Medication-overuse headache (MOH), also known as rebound headache, is the most common secondary headache disorder and caused by chronic and excessive use of medication to treat headache. Pain usually begins early and persists throughout the day. The WHO estimates half of headache sufferers do not seek professional treatment, explaining the prevalence of MOH.

In addition to professional diagnosis, medication, proper nutrition, rest, and regular exercise, several forms of bodywork modalities can be used to treat and prevent headaches. The Mayo Clinic recommends patients devote time every day to activities that relax muscles and reduce stress. Massage relaxes, increases circulation and releases the chemical serotonin which blocks pain signals. Regular massage may reduce the number and severity of attacks by relieving tense muscles, reducing stress, and improving sleep habits. Craniosacral therapy, hot and cold therapy, trigger point therapy, reflexology, acupressure, deep-tissue massage and Rolfing, relieve headache disorders by reducing nerve compression and muscle tension, easing pain, enhancing circulation and rebalancing the body. Massage therapy, and many other forms of bodywork, can significantly reduce the severity and frequency of headaches.

Headache disorders are serious illnesses that tremendously affect a large portion of the global population, significantly impacting quality of life. Proper diagnosis and medication can be combined with lifestyle changes and many forms of massage therapy and bodywork modalities to ease suffering and prevent occurrences.

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