This is a question that many people want answered and I am going to do my best today to help you figure out how to go about doing so. First we need to be clear on what we will be talking about today, which is HEADACHES and not Migraines. For many people it is difficult for them to understand the difference between the two.
If you happen to be one of those confused people let’s take just a minute to review. Migraine symptoms come in four stages: prodrome, aura, headache and post-drome. In the first stage people will usually notice symptoms such as: frequent yawning, increased thirst and urination, neck stiffness, food cravings and mood changes. The most commonly described phenomenon is the aura or flashes of light. While most people associate the aura with migraines, the occurrence is quite low. The migraine itself can last anywhere from four to 72 hours. Migraine symptoms include: pain on one or both sides of the head, pain that feels like throbbing or pulsing, lightheadedness, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting. The post-drome symptoms usually include: light sensitivity, weakness, dizziness, moodiness and confusion. While it is not totally clear as to why migraines occur it is thought to be due to changes in the brainstem or possibly an imbalance with brain chemicals.
Tension headaches are a totally different animal altogether. The symptoms include: dull aching head pain, a sensation of tightness or pressure around the head and tenderness of the neck and shoulder muscles. It is this tenderness that I want to specifically address today because there are several ways to fix this problem.
Tension headaches are thought to be caused by, well, tension…of your neck and upper shoulder muscles. Determining if this is the case is usually pretty simple. If you are experiencing a headache, gently press around the base of your skull, the back of your neck, the tops of your shoulders and in between your shoulder blades. Did pressing on any of those muscle increase or intensify your symptoms? If so, there is a good chance you are experiencing a tension headache.
Now that you have identified the cause of your problem, you have a few choices. You can choose to treat the symptoms yourself or seek the care of a healthcare practitioner, like a physical therapist, who can properly treat you and your symptoms. If you decide that you want to do this alone, you can start by stretching the tight tissue. If you feel like this is not useful you can put progressively harder pressure over the tight, ropy muscle. I wrote a great article discussing all these techniques if you want to check it out here.
While many people can and have been successful at treating their tight painful muscles that cause headaches, I always recommend seeking the care of a healthcare professional. He or she is specially trained to not only identify those causes but also to treat them.
If you do go the route of having a healthcare provider treat your tight, sore muscles, search out one that can dry needle those muscles. Dry needling is an incredibly fast and comfortable way to get those target muscles to relax and stop causing your headaches.
If you have questions about your headaches, give us a call so we can help you determine what the right treatment for you would be. Our phone number is 479-402-9400.