Treating Musculoskeletal Headaches

You know the feeling – the dull ache in your head, the tension in your shoulder, neck, and face muscles. Tension headaches, also known as musculoskeletal headaches for the accompanying muscle aches and pains, are the most common type of headache, affecting most of us at some point in our lives.

A tension headache causes mild to moderate head pain that may spread throughout your neck and shoulders. It may feel like a tight band is wrapped around your head. The muscles in your shoulders, neck, face, and head may feel sore and tender.

The most typical culprit of tension headaches is stress. Other triggers include anxiety, poor posture, lack of sleep, fatigue, eye strain, illness, hunger, or trauma, such as whiplash from an auto accident.

Besides the occasional headache, other types of tension headaches include episodic and chronic.  Episodic tension headaches are those that occur less than 15 days a month, while chronic tension headaches occur more than 15 days each month. This type may last for hours, coming and going over a long period of time.

Most tension headaches can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen. For episodic or chronic tension headaches, you might want to try physical therapy. Physical therapists can employ hands-on techniques such as trigger point therapy or myofascial release to ease the muscular pains that contribute to tension headaches.

A trigger point is a small area in a muscle that is very sensitive to touch or pressure. It can be extremely painful. They most frequently occur in the neck, back, and shoulders. Targeting these trigger points with manual manipulation helps relax the muscle and relieve pain.

Myofascial release is a rehabilitation treatment that can relieve pain and relax muscles and tissue. Muscle tension causes both the muscles and fascia (the smooth tissue that covers muscles) to tighten. Myofascial release is a hands-on technique used by physical therapists to stretch tight and sore areas to relieve pain, restore tissue health, increase motion, and improve function.

If you have musculoskeletal tension headaches that just won’t go away, make an appointment with one of the skilled physical therapists at Tuscon Orthopaedic Institute. Call East Tucson at (520) 784-6570 or Northwest Tucson at (520) 382-8201.

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