Relieving Headaches With Active Release Techniques

It is very uncommon for our practice to go an entire day without seeing a patient who isn’t seeking our help to resolve their headache. Headaches are not only painful, but they can also be disabling.  They can impair your quality of life by negatively affecting your life at home and at work. Many live in fear or anxiety as they wait for the next headache to come out of no where. There are over 150 different types of headaches, with tension headaches and migraines toping the list.

The most common type of headache is a tension headache, often called stress headache. They most commonly present with pain/pressure at the back of your head and neck. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), they are so common that 1/3 of men and 1/2 of women are affected by tension headaches. To better understand tension headaches (TH) and how they start, here are a few common contributors of TH:

  • Postural constraints, such as a desk job where you are staring at your computer screen for long periods of time, eye strain.
  • Drivers; sitting behind the steering wheel for long periods of time puts unnecessary stress on your neck and upper back muscles.
  • Previous injury; whiplash, sports injuries, slip and fall.
  • STRESS; physical, chemical, emotional.
  • Muscular imbalances and muscle fatigue.

 

Suboccipital Triangle Anatomy

Above is a wonderful visual of the specific anatomy that will be the focus of treatment. The muscles in the suboccipital triangle are small, but pack a punch functionally when it comes to cervical spine motion and stability. There are also nerves in this area that can become affected if the tension generated is too great. The muscles shown above are the deepest layer in the cervical spine. If these small muscles lack the ability to lengthen, the amount of movement lost in the cervical spine is greatly increased.

ART for upper neck tightness and headache

The top technique utilized in our office to relieve a tension headache is Active Release Techniques (ART). Since ART focuses on soft tissues (muscles, fascia, nerves, etc.), muscle tightness and soft tissue adhesions causing these headaches can often be resolved quite quickly. ART can help restore normal tissue lengthening/extensibility leading to improved range of motion in the cervical spine. Treatment in this area can sometimes be uncomfortable but most patients are more than happy to put up with short term discomfort for long term relief. This video demonstrates what can be expected during an ART session in the cervical spine. If you, or someone you know, experiences headaches frequently, ART could help eliminate this condition quickly, and often, permanently.

 

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