Self Massage Techniques for Tension Headaches

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

between them.

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