5 steps to relieve a headache


Woman holding hands to head with headache

Just about everyone has experienced a headache at one time or another. In fact, 90% of Americans have had an occasional headache. 74% of those headaches are caused by tension. Massage therapists see people suffering from tension headaches often, and we’ve got a few self-care tips to help you prevent build-up of strain that causes headaches.

Neck & Shoulder Rotations

Start by looking over each shoulder. Slowly. Relax your shoulders and straighten your spine so your chest is open.  SLOWLY turn your head to look over your left ear.  SLOWLY move to look over your right ear.  Do this 3-5 times slowly.  (See the trend?)  Now rotate your head so that your chin moves in a circle towards your chest, from side to side.  Do this 4-5 times.

Take a deep breath to relax your shoulders.  Now move your shoulders in circles, forward and backward.  5, 10 to 15 times feels great.  This gets the blood moving and the muscles start to loosen.  Now shake them out a little bit.

Massage Your Neck

Take one hand, with fingers together, and make a “C.”  Put this “C” on your neck vertically.  Now move your fingers.  You can squeeze, push, shake, push, or pull.  Whatever feels good at the time.  Massage each side of the neck for a bit.  1-3 minutes should be great.  Or stop when your arm starts to hurt.

Pressure points

At the base of your skull there are two indentations on the side of neck.  These are a great place to apply pressure to relieve headaches.  Once you’ve found these indentations take one thumb and push into one side.  Hold for about 10 seconds.  You may push lightly or you could push very hard, whichever feels best at the time.  Push 3 times on each side.

Face Massage

Take your fingertips and rub circles into your forehead.  30 seconds to a minute feels good.  Rub gentle circles at the temples for as long as you like.  Rub your eyebrows.  You can apply direct pressure to your brows and cheekbones.  These areas can use a little more pressure.  Now rub big circles on your cheeks. Increase your pressure, or lighten up a bit. Do what feels good to you.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Some headaches may be a sign of a more serious illness. Anyone who has these danger signs should seek medical help immediately:

This is the first headache you have ever had in your life and it interferes with your daily activities
Your headache comes on suddenly and is explosive or violent
You would describe your headache as “your worst ever,” even if you regularly get headaches
You also have slurred speech, a change in vision, problems moving your arms or legs, loss of balance, confusion, or memory loss with your headache
Your headache gets worse over a 24-hour period
You also have a fever, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting with your headache
Your headache occurs with/after a head injury
Your headache is severe and just in one eye, with redness in that eye
You are over age 50 and your headaches just began, especially if you also have vision problems and pain while chewing
You have cancer and develop a new headache

Bonus tip

Get a professional massage occasionally. Your massage therapist can help break the cycle of recurring tension headaches, and teach you a few more tricks to stay pain-free between visits!

RealAge http://www.realage.com/headache-migraine/headache-prevalence
Medline Plus http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003024.htm