According to the World Health Organization, approximately 47 percent of adults around the world suffer from at least one headache in any given year 1. Tension-type headache is the most common type of headache disorder. Tension headaches are commonly triggered by stress or muscle tension in the neck and head. Applying pressure to specific points around the neck and head may help to relieve symptoms.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Base of the Skull
Reaching behind your head where the bottom of your skull meets your neck, you will find little indentations. Many different muscles are located there, which can contribute to headaches when they're tight. Place your thumbs over the indentations and inhale deeply. As you breathe out, press your thumbs in and lean your head slightly back. This point can relieve many headaches felt in the front and back of the head.
Upper Trapezius Muscle
The trapezius is a large muscle at the top of your back. It attaches to your upper neck and skull, down your mid-back and across to the shoulder. Reaching one arm across to the opposite shoulder, use your fingertips to feel midway between your neck and shoulder and press down. In people with tight upper trapezius muscles, pain can be felt up the neck and around the ear.
The sternocleidomastoid, or SCM, attaches from the back of the ear to the breast and collar bones. To find the headache-generating point, place your right hand on the right side of your neck. Turn your head to the left. The muscle that pops out is your SCM. Squeeze the muscle gently, as you turn your head back to the front. Take a deep breath in. As you breathe out, slowly and gently squeeze this muscle. People with tight SCMs can feel pain over their eye and some even have jaw pain.
The temporalis muscle runs from the side of the skull down to the jaw. Each time you speak or chew, this muscle is used. If the temporalis muscle is tight, pain can be felt over the temples, around the eyes and in the jaw. To stretch this muscle, place your fingers on your skull above the ears and behind your temples. Take a deep breath in. As you breathe out, slowly open your mouth and push your fingers up toward the top of your skull.
Headaches can be symptoms of a serious underlying condition. Seek immediate medical attention if you suffer from confusion, excessive sleepiness, double vision, weakness, fever or a red eye or if your headache gets progressively worse. Seek emergency medical care if you experience a sudden, severe headache that develops over a few seconds to minutes.
- World Health Organization: Headache Disorders
- Trigger Point Therapy for Myofascial Pain: The Practice of Informed Touch; Donna Finando and Steve Finando
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