Many people suffer with headaches on a regular or even daily basis. These headaches can be caused by eye strain from optical problems, however a higher percentage of headaches are caused by muscle tension in the shoulders and upper back. These headaches manifest themselves as a tight band around our head, usually starting across the top of our skull and ending behind our eyes.
Humans seem to hold tremendous amounts of stress and tension in our shoulders. Our shoulder muscles are our flood gates or physical barrier, holding back all our feelings of frustation, fear, anguish, pain and much more. The more feelings that are supressed or held back, the greater the tension and the further our head sinks in between our shoulders. Likewise, holding our head in one position constantly without rest or movement will create the same effect (tipically, sitting at a computer or driving for too long without significant movement, stretching or rest). The physcial strain on our muscles is immense and this results in the tension, and eventual knotted muscles we all experience.
Shoulder and Neck Muscles
As can be seen from this illustration, most of the muscles in the shoulder areas are attached to the under side of the skull just below the oxcypital (the boney outcrop at the back of the skull). There are more than 30 muscles in your shoulder and neck area. Once the muscles are under continuous tension a stress (pulling) is excerted around our neck and onto the places where the muscle attaches to the skull. Your shoulders will feel stiff and you may find resistance turning your head from side to side, up or down.
At this point the nurve receptors start sending messages to our brain that things are not as they should be. It is these multiple messages that start the ‘tightening band’ sensation in your head. As a result, this in turn leads to most people not wanting to move their head as it seems to tighten the band around their head and sends those woozey feelings to the stomach. Unfortunately it also tightens the muscles further as they are purposely tensed to stop your head from moving.
The only true key to stopping headaches is relaxing the muscles in the shoulders and neck, thus releasing the pulling effect at the base of the skull. Reaching for the paracetamol can give short-term relief, as they stop the nurves from shouting at your brain for a short while. Unfortunately in many cases this is only masking the symptoms, not treating the real problem.
Long-term the muscle tension must be addressed. This can be done with either spending less time on the computer, or having regular breaks (see Posture at your computer). The same applies to driving for long distances without taking breaks.
Using meditation or other relaxation techniques will also help manage stress levels from our busy lives and pent-up feelings. Massage will definately physically reduce knots and tension in the shoulder and neck muscles, giving instant relief and long-term relaxation. Doing things that help you relax and enjoy life are also part of the long-term management plan. These will vary from person to person, but do not include alcohole or drugs, as these again only mask the symptoms.
Altimately you need to stop whatever it is that generates the muscle stress that leads to your headaches. Easier said than done I know, but nonetheless the only way to long-term headache relief.
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