Updated: Jan 26
Approximately 10 million people in the UK live with headaches, in fact it is amongst the most common neurological reasons for A&E attendance.
Remedial massage is the oldest technique of healing. Through touch we can help relieve and prevent chronic pain, lowered vitality and recurring infections, so I am going to guide you through some techniques that I have used both with my family and with my clients to help ease the pain of headaches.
Headaches vary in frequency and severity, they can be the result of infections of the nose, ears, eyes and sinuses but it is much more usual for them to be brought on by lifestyle triggers; tension, exhaustion, food and anxiety.
A migraine is a recurrent throbbing headache, usually occurring on one side of the head. Migraines affect roughly 1 in 5 women and around 1 in 15 men and are often genetic. Some people will experience triggers; eating a particular food, stress and or exhaustion.
If your headaches are frequent and are affecting your day to day life you should see your GP.
Read on to learn how to prevent and ease the pain of headaches with some simple lifestyle changes and massage techniques.
BASIC ANATOMY & HISTORY OF MASSAGE
The head has fourteen facial bones and twenty-two cranial bones and weighs about five kgs. It needs many muscles to hold it in place, elevate the eyebrows, to close the eyes, to eat, flex, turn and to give expression.
Have you ever fallen asleep whilst sitting? The muscles in your neck will have relaxed and your head will have fallen forward. Because your muscles have stretched unexpectedly, the muscles nerves will react and a reflex-like action will have woken you as your head jerks backward. This protective mechanism is ingenious.
Along with the neck and shoulders the head is also one of our principal areas in which we accumulate tension. When the scalp tightens, the blood supply to the hair follicles is restricted and they become undernourished. Through head massage the oxygen supply to the brain increases along with the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid - thereby increasing the level of life energy and improving scalp circulation which helps to promote hair texture, strength and growth.
Tension in the face and scalp not only affects the skin and hair, but can trigger ailments of the eyes, nose and jaw such as headaches, migraines, sinusitis, skin disorders and jaw grinding. Teeth grinding and clenching are one example of unconscious stress and tension, in this instance being held in the jaw muscles.
Massaging the neck, face and scalp can be used to treat chronic headaches, jaw stiffness, to help remedy insomnia and sinus issues and to slow down the ageing process on the skin!
By rubbing across the muscle fibres at both the origin and insertion (the points where the muscle attaches to the bone) you will help to stimulate the muscle, relieve tension and restore balance to the parasympathetic nervous system.
TOP TIPS FOR HEADACHE PREVENTION
IDENTIFY - Identify any emerging patterns and note them down in a diary - what have you eaten, are you tired, have your eyes been strained, have you just got your period?
OBSERVE - Take a moment to look at your posture. Do you have a head forward posture? Are you slouching? Are your shoulders hunched or twisted? Is your breathing shallow? Poor posture is a major cause of headaches, migraines and lowered vitality.
DISTRIBUTE - Use a well fitting rucksack or distribute loads symmetrically by carrying with both hands, this will reduce any stress considerably.
HYDRATE - Keep hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water daily.
BE WISE - Use your phone wisely and never hold it between your ear and shoulder. Don't look down at a screen for prolonged periods of time.
STRETCH - Take regular stretch breaks from sitting. Sitting produces more pressure on the spine than standing, this is because the back muscles must work harder when the body sits. Lift your head so your face is directed at the ceiling. Then 'lengthen the back of your neck' so your face points forward. Repeat this at regular interval throughout the day
HEADACHE FIRST AID
1. Tension Headache - Put both hands around the head like a cap, squeeze, lift and let go. Do this several times. Watch this short YouTube video.
2. Tension Headache - Apply pressure with the thumb to the point on top of the head between the tops of the ears and in line with the nose. Watch this short YouTube video.
3. Add lavender oil to your bath, put drops on your pillow and use the oil in a burner - Lavender is the most versatile oil, effective for treating headaches, insomnia, anxiety and wounds. It can be used neat and in my opinion every household should have a bottle or two. It is antiseptic, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, protects against infection, anti-spasmodic, balancing, relaxant and detoxifying which promotes healing a prevents scarring.
4. Massage around your eyes to treat headaches brought on by eyestrain - watch this short YouTube video
5. Massage down the nose and along the cheekbones to ease headaches brought on by blocked congestion and sinusitis - watch this short YouTube video
6. Learn about potential food trigger by tuning in to The Doctors Kitchen episode #68 Eating for Migraines with Dr Jessica Briscoe and Dr Katy Munro
Massage really can be the best way to retrieve our sense of inner calmness and tranquility while reducing our feeling of anxiety.
For more information on Indian Head Massage and to follow a guided treatment, read an article I wrote for the Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine HERE: https://www.nicolastewart.com/post/indian-head-massage
For more guided massages and stretches to prevent or ease minor common ailments, such as headaches, shoulder ache and anxiety please order my book 'The Complete Body Massage Course' HERE.
And head over to YouTube to watch my guided massages.
I am a professional masseur, author, speaker and advocate for parents and carers of children with complex needs and rare diseases.
I have two great kids. My 11 year old son was born 4 months prematurely and has a very rare condition requiring an intense responsibility of parental and hospital care. Switching from being a working mum to caring for a critically ill child often left me feeling powerless, scared and lonely.
I knew I was not the only parent with these feelings, so I decided to use my personal experience of caring for Spike over ten years and my professional experience of working with Evelina London Childrens Hospital and Great Ormond Street to help other families.
I am currently working with Dr Melinda Edwards on a free massage pilot for parents and carers at Evelina London Childrens Hospital.
For further information please visit: https://www.nicolastewart.com/post/in-touch-massage
ADVICE & SUPPORT
The Migraine Trust have sections for adults and children suffering with headaches and migraine. They can be contacted on 020 7631 6970 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. - https://www.migrainetrust.org/living-with-migraine/
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