Tension and Migraine headaches can be caused by stress, posture, muscle spasms, metabolic changes, hormones, or allergies. Many people suffer with headaches caused by suboccipital muscle spasms and trigger points. The suboccipital muscles are located at the base of the skull and help hold the head into extension. When these muscles are in spasms, it can aggravate the greater suboccipital nerve resulting in a series of events that produce tension headaches.
Trigger points in muscles refer pain to other areas. The suboccipital muscle trigger point refers pain from the back of the head toward the eye. It may feel like a head band or deep ache around the ears. You may have felt relief by rubbing the muscles, which can reduce the headache intensity or sensation. Sometimes rubbing these points increases the headache pain.
Physical therapy involves decreasing muscle spasms, decreasing pain, and improving flexibility. Electric, heat, ultrasound, cold laser, stretching, and exercises are additional treatments. Alternating ice and heat can decrease pain, headaches, muscle spasms, and trigger points. Increasing blood flow and decreasing the muscle spasms are important in treatment plans. Massage therapy and Graston Technique are also used to decrease headaches and trigger point referral pains.
Poor posture is associated with suboccipital muscle spasms and headaches. When the head and shoulders are leaning forward the suboccipital muscles compensate to lift the head. With chronic head forward postures, the muscle become overwhelmed and spasms. The spasms can lead to small injuries and trigger points. Improving head and neck postures will decrease the stress on suboccipital muscles. Combing physical and massage therapy with improved posture enhances the treatment effectiveness.
Incorporating massage therapy into physical therapy quickly decreases the intensity and frequency of tension headaches. Massage therapy is very effective and decreasing muscle pain, muscle spasms, and trigger points. A trained massage therapist will work to decrease muscle spasms in the suboccipital, trapezius, scalene, SCM, cervical spinal, thoracic paraspinal, and rhomboid muscles. These muscles are all commonly involved in tension and migraine headaches. By removing these contributing factors, the headache intensity decreases at a faster rate than massage therapy alone.
Cervical exercises and stretches are designed to increase range of motion, flexibility, and improve function on the neck joints and muscles. All exercises and stretches are to be performed in a pain free. Repeat the exercises several times a day for three sets of 10. The stretches can be held for 10 seconds and then relax for 10 seconds. Repeat the stretch three times each side several times a day. Rotating the head several degrees will change the intensity and muscle being stretched. Heat can be used before stretching for 15 minutes. Ice can be used after the exercises if you experience soreness.
Suboccipital trigger point referrals can be involved in tension and migraine headaches. Physical therapy and chiropractic treatment that reduces the muscle spasms, improves flexibility, increases range of motion, and improves postures can improve suboccipital referral headaches.
Our Neck Pain Exercises and Treatment page contains common exercises and stretches for headaches and neck pain.
For More Information:
Headache - More information on headache treatments.
Graston Technique - Is a treatment for breaking down scar tissue, decrease muscle adhesions or "knots" in muscle.
Massage Therapy - And how it can help reduce tension and migraine headaches.
- Laser therapy increases blood flow, decreases
inflammation, and reduces muscle spasms. It can be very effective
in people who just don't get better with traditional treatments.
Read more about the Laser Here.