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A Real Pain in the Neck

Published in For the Health of It, Massage Author: Theresa Lalim,CMT

Head ache noun
a great way to ruin anything

I know it’s not a real definition, but it’s true, isn’t it? No matter what the day is calling for, there’s this little thing that’s just waiting to ruin it and it’s called a headache. Nobody asks for it. Nobody welcomes it. But most likely, we all have experienced one at some point in our lives. Sometimes it catches us by complete surprise. Sometimes we can feel it coming from a mile away. But no matter how it comes, it’s real.

So, what do we do? Take medication, right? I don’t blame you. I’ve had headaches and there’s usually only one thing on my mind — relief. So, if you’re lucky, you take some medication and wait until it dulls the pain. But what if you’re unlucky and medication doesn’t take it away? Or it’s stopped helping all together? What do you do then? Did you just think: “I just deal with it.”? If I had a dollar for every time I heard this about headaches, I’d have pockets full of cash. As nice as that sounds, I’d rather help people.

I’ve been passionate about helping others for as long as I can remember. During this time, I’ve discovered just how powerful these things can be — especially massage. But it can’t be something you only do once a year to treat yourself because you got a gift card — especially if you want to use massage to treat your migraines or headaches.

In all these years working with people who suffer from chronic migraines or headaches, I’ve discovered that they all have something in common. Tension. Whether it’s a stress induced all over headache or an intense migraine with auditory and visual disturbances, some sort of tension accompanies every one of them. This tension can be in the muscles or fascia and is usually located within the head and neck area. So, guess what? If we take away the tension, we will likely take away the headache. At this point, you might be thinking. “I’ve tried that! It doesn’t work!” But what may have happened is that you’ve tried…a little bit. I’m not here to offend you or to question your motivation to help yourself. It’s just that most people don’t realize what it really takes to truly get rid of chronic muscle tension.

Without making things too complicated, I’ll explain it like this. Stress leads to tension, tension leads to pain, pain leads to more stress and the cycle continues. If there’s something that we all have in common, it’s stress. Some have more than others, but we all have it in our lives. So, knowing that, it’s almost impossible to be without any tension. The funny thing about tension is that it can be there without you even knowing about it.

How do you know if you have tension? Let’s try something. Take a deep breath right where you are, and as you exhale put your focus on your shoulders and relax them as if your shoulder blades were melting down your back. Try again. Were you holding them up…even just an inch?

This is a great example of how unconscious our everyday tension is. If you didn’t realize you were holding your shoulders up just now, how long has that been going on? We can go through entire days, weeks, months and years having this tension and be unaware of the effects of it. That is, until we get a signal that it’s getting too much to handle — a headache.

There are some exclusions to this, for example: head injuries, traumatic brain injuries, true chemical or hormonal imbalances — all of which should be examined by your physician. But even those can be accompanied by tension. Talk to your doctor about massage therapy.

So, you are probably wondering, what does it take to truly get rid of my tension? I suggest getting a massage every one to two weeks for awhile (more or less depending on severity), routinely practice the shoulder melting exercise mentioned above, drink more water and stay active. It will improve.

I know every one to two weeks sounds like a lot at first, but you won’t be there forever. After how much time we spend adding tension to our bodies, it’s unfair to ask for or believe that it can all be washed away in 30, 60 or 90 minutes. Tissues remember the position they are most used to, and they will want to return to that position. So, it takes time to retrain the body to relax. But it’s possible. And when it improves, it will be well worth it to you.

Think about all the time you’ve lost with your family due to a headache or lost work productivity. Is it a couple hours per week? A couple hours per month? Now imagine taking those hours back. Sounds great doesn’t it? As I always say, “headaches are very treatable, but you have to treat them for them to be treatable.”

So, if you suffer from headaches and you’re tired of dealing with them, come see me. Let’s fix that pain in the neck — your headache.