You're probably familiar with this scenario: busy working on a big project and you loose track of time. Then you realize you haven't taken a break in 4 hours. When you finally start moving around you realize your shoulders are almost in your ears and woah you've got quite the headache!
Has this happened to you?
You've got a tension headache!
Did you know many of us carry our stress in our upper traps? If, when someone comes and touches your shoulders you instinctively relax, you clench those muscles!
The upper trap attaches onto the nuchal line (a bony ridge) at the base of the head. So when that muscle tensions, its going to pull in that area. We also can tension these tiny, but very important muscles at the back of the head called rectus capitis, obliquus capitis inferior and obliquus capitus superior, affectionately named the sub-occiptals.
Our muscles are supposed to generate tension, thats how we contract them. We just don't want them contracting/tensing ALL the time. Tension headaches are a result of that.
But what can I do about my tension headache?
First things first, attempting to reduce stress. Easier said than done right? Start with adding in breaks to your work day, even if it's just a 5 minute stretch/move break. Set a timer so you don't work through it when you get engrossed.
A great way to reduce tension in the upper trap and the sub-occipitals (and decrease those headaches) is body scanning. Checking in with your body from head to toe, just a quick scan to see where you notice the tension. We get used to powering through our day and rarely stop to assess how we feel.
Diaphragmatic breathing. Deep belly breaths! Breathing tells your muscles its okay to let go when they get stuck in that fight or flight response that is all too common with stress.
What can physical therapy do for my tension headache?
Your physical therapist can reduce tension in your upper trap and sub-occipital area through manual therapy. We will also help guide you in stretches, and postural strengthening exercises to limit the strain placed on the neck and head.
If you're ready to address your tension headaches, contact our team today!