Millions of people suffer from headaches every day. Whether it’s a mere dull ache or a full-blown migraine, headaches can be a real pain in the neck…or head! And while your first thought may be to reach for a pill or prescription, you can actually find relief naturally using nothing more than your own two hands.
Trigger points are essentially knots in the muscles that can cause a great deal of pain. While the knots themselves don’t actually hurt, the tension they cause leads to referral pain felt elsewhere. The most common trigger points for headaches are in the suboccipital muscles of the neck.
While there are several muscles that work as a team to move the head and jaw, the suboccipitals work overtime. As a group they are responsible for initiating the finer movements and stabilizing the head, which can weigh as much as a bowling ball. For those who sit straining at a computer screen all day, these muscles get a never-ending workout. It’s no wonder they get stressed!
The suboccipitals are located on both sides of the neck behind the base of the skull. They also work in contrast to the jaw muscles. Every time you chew, clench your jaw or grind your teeth, your jaw muscles tug on the fine suboccipitals, increasing the likelihood for knots to develop. Once they form, the tension can cause pain to radiate anywhere around the head, skull, neck or jaw.
Heading to the drugstore for a pain-killer may dull the ache but it won’t relieve the underlying problem. Research has shown that locating and deactivating these knots or “trigger points” is an effective headache treatment. Not to mention that it is far safer than continually popping pills.
Just like no two people are alike, neither are their headache-causing trigger points. To locate the source of your headache you can either have a massage therapist work on your occipital muscles or you can apply pressure yourself.
Begin at the base of the skull on both sides of your neck and apply moderate pressure. When you hit on a trigger point, the headache pain may be reproduced or you may feel referral pain in other parts of the neck or head. You can gently rub with your thumbs throughout the area to help relieve the tension.
Another method is to lie down on your back with your neck resting on a tennis ball. Use the ball to work on the knots by gently moving your neck muscles along its surface.
You only need to work on these muscles for about ten minutes. Massaging too deeply for a prolonged period can irritate the muscles. If you’ve had chronic headaches and the knots are deep or complex, it may take a few sessions to fully relieve the headache pain. Try self-massage a few times a week. If your pain isn’t dissipating quickly enough, visit a massage therapist who can perform deeper tissue work.
A few sessions may be all it takes to relieve that pain in the … head!
-The Alternative Daily