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Why isn’t heat, massage getting rid of that headache for good?

By Mike Bills, MS PT

The problem with headaches is that typically, the small muscles in our neck and those covering our skull have gotten into a more permanent state of tightness and pressure. This is why our headaches will often go away for a day or two but then come back. Just like all muscles in your body, the muscles in your neck and skull are like rubber bands. If they are not treated properly, they will gradually shorten over time. So it is very common for us to see that the muscles in your neck, shoulder blades, shoulders and your skull are full of very small, but damaging, knots and areas of tightness. It is this tightness and these knots that prevent the muscles from completely releasing that tension and pressure on the skull. While they may relax for a short period of time, they have not returned to their full “normal” state and thus are very easily re-triggered so the headache returns the next day, next week or next month.

Anyone who experiences ongoing or recurring headaches is experiencing exactly what was discussed above. You can take aspirin or any other over-the-counter medication to “relieve” the symptoms. However, this is only temporarily relieving the symptoms as it is creating a false release of the muscles and thus a temporary release of the muscle tension and pressure. 

What really needs to happen to eliminate the condition and take care of the headaches once and for all is to completely address and permanently change the physical state of all of these muscles. Headaches are set off because muscle is not capable of doing the work load that it is placed under. Whether that be that the muscles are too weak, too tight or some combination of both, this must be addressed in order to finally completely handle the headaches.

While there are many treatment approaches to deal with headaches, there is only one medical practitioner who is fully capable of using all techniques to eliminate all aspect of headaches and treat the current symptoms. An expert physical therapist who is trained in manual, hands-on therapy will be able to do a number of things to permanently address your headaches:

  1. First, using manual, hands-on treatment techniques, they will successfully release the tension in all of the muscles involved. Additionally, they will ensure that they eliminate all of the knots and tension throughout the entire muscle, thus ensuring that the problem does not return in the near future. 
  2. They will assist you with stretching out the muscles that are predisposed in you to being tight.  This is different in each and everyone of us and the method that this needs to be done is specific to each person. 
  3. An expert physical therapist will, having completed the manual techniques previously noted, begin to strengthen all of the associated muscles. Again, this is something specific to each individual and their specific needs. But unless the very small muscles in your neck, shoulder blades and skull are put into proper working order, they will not prevent future headaches. 
  4. Finally, an expert therapist will educate your on proper methods to prevent overwork and overload on all of these structures and thus prevent the re-occurrence in the future. 

It has been seen time and time again, that a patient who has experienced a history of headaches, whether it be for days, week, months or even years, will experience complete relief not only now but into the future if the above components are all included. The expert therapist is able to not only relieve the structures that are currently causing the problem, but also eliminate the factors that have caused it to reoccur time and time again. 

If you have been experiencing headaches recently or in the past, this is a sign that something is not right from the shoulders up. Think of the headache as being the “check engine” light in your car. The headache is a sign that muscles are under too much physical or mental stress and need some help ASAP to prevent other problems from occurring such as migraines, arthritis in your neck, vision or hearing problems, balance problems and more.

Call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center TODAY at 703-450-4300 to schedule an evaluation to figure out what is causing your headaches so they can be stopped and prevented long term.

CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you.

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