Treatment of Tension Headaches
To resolve Tension Headaches it is essential that we remove all physical restrictions throughout the body’s Kinetic Chain. This would include restrictions in your shoulders, neck, jaw, skull, and perhaps other affected areas. In other words, wherever we find restrictions that may be initiating a physical cascade of events that will eventually cause physical or biochemical changes resulting in a headache. This will include:
- Soft tissue adhesions – These will be found in muscles, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue. Anywhere that a change in tissue texture, tension, movement or function is noted.
- Peripheral nerve entrapments – Besides the actual tension headache, nerve entrapment symptoms include: paresthesisas or abnormal neurological sensations which include: numbness, tingling, burning, prickling, hyperesthesia (increased sensitivity) and muscle atrophy.
It is extremely important to recognize that if we are only dealing with the headache on a pharmaceutical basis we have not addressed the chronic chain of events that perpetuates the headache.
There is a considerable amount of research in the literature to support this perspective. Even a change in posture can greatly affect the prevalence of a tension headache.
Research has demonstrated that tension or weakness in any of the following areas will cause an increase in both the intensity and frequency of tension headaches.
Examples of Anterior Structures:
Examples of Posterior Structures:
Our clinical experience has shown that the majority of chronic tension headaches can be completely resolved or substantially reduced by using soft tissue therapy (Active Release Techniques, Graston Techniuqe, Massage therapy) in conjunction with the correct exercise program.
These treatments, in conjunction with appropriate exercise and life style management changes, can prevent headaches from returning. Occasionally short term pharmaceutical intervention may be necessary, but in most cases this can be avoided when dealing with tension headaches.
If you would like information about our clinic in Calgary Alberta please go to www.kinetichealth.ca.
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- Forward head posture and neck mobility in chronic tension-type headache: a blinded, controlled study. Fernandez-de-las-Penas C, Alonso-Blanco C, Cuadrado ML, Pareja JA. Cephalalgia. 2006 Mar;26(3):314-9. Department of Physical Therapy & Occupational Therapy, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation of Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Alcorcón, Madrid, Spain.
- Headache in patients with neck-shoulder-arm pain of cervical radicular origin. Persson LC, Carlsson JY. Headache. 1999 Mar;39(3):218-24. From the Department of Neurosurgery, Lund University Hospital, Sweden.
- Neck flexor muscle fatigue in adolescents with headache: an electromyographic study.Oksanen A, Poyhonen T, Metsahonkala L, Anttila P, Hiekkanen H, Laimi K, Salminen JJ.Eur J Pain. 2007 Oct;11(7):764-72. Epub 2007 Feb 8. Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, Turku University Central Hospital, FIN-20521, Turku, Finland.
- Myofascial trigger points and their relationship to headache clinical parameters in chronic tension-type headache. Fernandez-de-Las-Penas C, Alonso-Blanco C, Cuadrado ML, Gerwin RD, Pareja JA. Headache. 2006 Sep;46(8):1264-72. Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Physical Therapy, Alcorcon, Madrid, Spain.
- Referred pain from trapezius muscle trigger points shares similar characteristics with chronic tension type headache. Fernandez-de-Las-Penas C, Ge HY, Arendt-Nielsen L, Cuadrado ML, Pareja JA. Eur J Pain. 2007 May;11(4):475-82. Epub 2006 Aug 21. Department of Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation of Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Alcorcón, Madrid, Spain.
- Trigger points in the suboccipital muscles and forward head posture in tension-type headache. Fernandez-de-las-Penas C, Alonso-Blanco C, Cuadrado ML, Gerwin RD, Pareja JA. Headache. 2006 Mar;46(3):454-60. Department of Physical Therapy, University Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain.