Remedial Massage for Headaches



Of the majority of people that I see for treatment, the most common contributor of head aches is poor posture.  Improper head positioning and posture can contribute to head aches.  Forward head posture is usually accompanied with rounded shoulders and kyphotic upper back.  This is referred to as upper crossed syndrome.

Rather than the head being supported evenly on the underlying structures i.e vertebral column (spine) like bricks stacked on top of each other, it is also being heavily supported by the muscles at the back of the neck and head which are continually active to stop the head from falling further forward and down.  At the same time the head is usually tilted back to maintain a horizontal line of vision.  This causes continual tension and stress on the muscles at the base of the skull (sub occipitals) and the myofascia of that region.  An average head can weigh about 5kg and will require more energy to hold it up depending how far forward the head is.  The imbalance caused by the surrounding neck and shoulder musculature will then contribute to the uneven tension within the myofacial network in the head.

Increased tension is usually accompanied by a poor circulation of muscle and lymph.  Decreasing circulation prevents fresh oxygenated blood supply to the cells within this region as well as pathways for metabolic waste expulsion.

This then may cause an inflammatory response to the region causing an increase in pressure.  Thus a perpetual cycle ensues.

As well as being a physical stressor, headaches can also contribute to your psychological and emotional state.    

How can remedial massage help?

Usually we get fantastic results after the first visit with most people suffering from headaches.  Because we see many people with these presenting symptoms it is quite easy to identify which structures are contributing to the headaches or tension.  The image below illustrates which muscles are locked short and long and the imbalances they cause.  After assessment and checking range of motion of your head, neck, and shoulders we are able to plan a course of action.

Its is important to note, although you may feel pain in certain areas and relief when they are treated locally, it may be other areas that are the culprits.  For example, if you have a rounded back, it may feel good to have that area treated.  However the lengthened muscles should not be lengthened further.  As good as it may feel to have those areas treated deeply, it may exacerbate the issue over time.  The cause in most cases is usually the front (shortened) area of your body ie the chest and upper abdominals and the posterior of the neck.  


In a dynamic and static context the body is connected through myofacial (muscles and connective tissues) slings to allow us to move in an efficient manner.  These myofascial slings are contractile and elastic therefore we need to address them as such.  Simply stretching and loosening these lines of pull will help alleviate the tension for short periods but in order to experience long lasting relief specific retentioning (strengthening) of these slings is necessary.  Appropriate training will help you move pain free with increased efficiency.      

5 things you can do right now to alleviate pain

  1. Stretch the back of the neck and chest.  As illustrated in the images above, stretching the muscles that are locked short will help immensly.
  2. Drink plenty of water – Staying hydrated, especially during the various seasons is essential.  Sometimes during winter we may not get the urge to drink as much as we should.  And dehydration in summer is commonplace. Coffee and tea are diuretics meaning they cause you to urinate more frequently thus decreasing you water/blood volume. Your body is made mainly of water and uses it as a medium to transport nutrients and wastes throught out the body.  It is also involved in maintaining your bodys ph levels which is kept at a dynamic equilibrium.
  3. Move more – Moving and staying active promotes circulation.  As the body moves it increases your heart rate, releases certain hormones that make you feel good.  As the muscles in your body contract, they help pump blood back to your heart as well as giving your heart a work out.  All in all it promotes circulation.
  4. Stress relieving activity – Managing stress is a great skill to have and has many benefits.   Meditating, listening to music, or just taking time out for yourself works for some, while exercise, socialising, sitting in the park may work for others.  Find your way of decreasing the sympathetic response.  Increased or residual stress, physical or psychological unmanaged both have a physiological responses which are not beneficial to your well-being.
  5. Book a remedial massage with us – An evidence based massage is super effective in decreasing headaches.  Its good to come get a tune up regularly and let a professional get into those areas too difficult to get into.