There is nothing worse than trying to get through your work
day with pain at the base of the skull, shooting up the back
of your head and maybe even behind your eye. This is a text
book referral pattern for an upper trapezius trigger point,
and is the most common type of headache I treat every day.
So let’s discuss how you deal with this and get on with your
day! The first thing you should do, if at all possible, it
to take a quick break from whatever it is you are doing.
Take a couple of deep breaths, and mobilize your head and
neck (turn your head side to side, ear to shoulder, and
front and back.) Repeat this a few times, and always stay
in pain free range – i.e. – if it hurts, make your movements
smaller, or stop.
Next, you need to massage the area – in the case of an upper
trapezius trigger point, you want to kneed the bulk of
muscle between the neck and shoulder – you might even feel
the headache intensify briefly while you work this area,
that’s OK – it means you are on the right spot! You want to
apply just enough pressure to feel slight discomfort (it
kind of hurts and feels good all at the same time), but not
so much that you are cringing in pain. You can pinch the
muscle between your thumb and fingers and roll it, or use
flat fingers and apply direct pressure, or a rubbing motion.
Follow the muscle from the shoulder area all the way up the
back of the neck to the base of the skull. You want to work
between the spinous processes at the very back of the neck
(you can feel the bumps they make) and the transverse
processes at the sides (in line with the ears). Be sure not
to apply direct pressure over these areas, but work in
Because the upper trapezius attaches to the base of the
skull, it is important to work this area as well. You can
use your fingers along the ridge, working back and forth and
up and down in small “frictioning” movements, or you can
also use an eraser to help if your fingers get tired.
Again, be sure to use moderate pressure.
After massaging the area, it is important to stretch the
muscle out. If you want to stretch the right upper
trapezius muscle, you need to sit nice and tall, looking
straight ahead, and bend your neck to the left, dropping
your left ear to left shoulder. You should feel a gentle
pulling sensation along the right side of your neck and
shoulder. Hold here, taking a couple of deep breaths. If
you don’t feel anything, you can use your left hand on your
head to gently guide the stretch further.
Heat can also be applied to the muscles, either before you
start your self-massage, or in lieu of massage, and in
conjunction with the stretch just described.
This should be enough to alleviate the average tension
headache. If your symptoms do not improve, it might be time
to seek some professional help!
I hope this helps you with your tension headaches!
© 2007 Denise Mackinnon RMT