Headaches can affect anyone, regardless of age or background. They are one of the most common medical complaints worldwide. Headaches can be the reason a person sees a medical or allied health professional, or it can be symptomatic of underlying issues. These underlying issues can include (but aren’t limited to) various types of stress, hormonal surges/imbalances, high blood pressure (hypertension), and anxiety.
There are different types of headaches a person may experience.
- Tension headaches, which are the most common form of a headache, begin slowly and gradually build in intensity. The person may feel as if they have a tight band around the head, accompanied by dull aches and pain in the neck. This type of a headache can be either acute (short-lasting) or chronic. Acute attacks can last a few hours or several days. Chronic headaches occur for two weeks in duration and recur for a period of at least 3 months.
- Migraine headaches may cause a pulsating, throbbing pain usually only on one side of the head. Along with the aching, people may experience blurred vision, light-headedness, nausea, and sensory disturbances. Though migraines are the second most common form of a headache, it can have the biggest impact on one’s life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), migraines are the sixth highest cause of days lost at work due to disability worldwide.
- Cluster headaches are shorter in duration. They usually last between 15 minutes and 3 hours. In between clusters, there may be no headache symptoms. This headache-free period can last for months. Cluster headaches typically are one-sided, often described as sharp or burning, and typically located in or around one eye.
- Thunderclap headaches are secondary to life-threatening conditions. These conditions include cerebral venous thrombosis, meningitis, intracerebral hemorrhage, aneurysms, and pituitary apoplexy.
Headaches can be treated in a variety of ways. While thunderclap headaches require immediate medical attention, the other forms of headaches mentioned above are receptive to over-the-counter medications, as well as complementary/alternative therapies. Massage therapy to the head, neck, and shoulders can help to relieve tension and decrease the presence and duration of headaches. Research has been published by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has shown that with respect to tension headaches massage can:
- reduce depression and/or anxiety
- decrease perceived pain
- decrease anger status
- decrease tension
- reduce frequency
- reduce intensity
- reduce duration
- decrease medication usage
- increase range of cervical [neck] motion
While none of us can fully escape headaches, there are things that we can do to find some relief. Massage therapy on a regular basis can help with stress-related headaches. It can also help with decreasing the intensity of chronic headaches.
Yours in Health,
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