What is a Tension Headache?
Tension Headaches occur when the muscles and fascia in the upper back become so tense that they put tension on the Fascia and connective tissue over the head and forehead. It is this tension that then causes the headache, hence the term. Tension Headaches normally occur in the forehead, at the base of the skull, around the eye brows and sometimes you can experience a sharp stabbing pain from behind the eye. These are classic signs of a Tension Headache.
What is Fascia and why does it get tight?
Fascia is a connective tissue and in simplest terms has two layers, Superficial and Deep Fascia. Deep Fascia sits between muscles. It allows muscles to glide over each other and work as a unit as does the Superficial Fascia. Superficial fascia is a soft connective tissue located just below the skin. It wraps and connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body. If you’ve ever eaten a chicken thigh, the Superficial Fascia is the white stretchy tissue under the skin. When you eat steak, it’s the silvery tissue that sometimes runs through the middle. This is the Deep Fascia separating muscle.
Together, Muscle and Fascia make up what is called the Myofascia system. For various reasons including disuse, overuse, static posture, not enough stretching, or injuries, the fascia and the underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together. This is called an adhesion and it may cause a restriction in muscle movement. It also causes pain, soreness and reduced flexibility or range of motion. If the flexibility and range of motion are reduced, this can then cause muscular adhesions. A muscular adhesion is where the fibres in the muscle get stuck together. Otherwise known as a knot.
What causes Tension Headaches?
One of the biggest causes of Tension Headaches is static posture. This is when we hold our bodies in any one position for an extended period of time with little to no movement. A couple of good examples of this are sitting at a desk or driving. Both of these postures make our shoulders very rounded which then causes a muscular imbalance, which in turn creates tension in the upper back. You can see where I’m going with this. This tension can cause a Tension Headache, in some cases migraines too.
Treatment and prevention.
Sports Massage is one of the best treatments for Tension Headaches. It helps by breaking down the adhesions in the muscle tissue and between the fascia and the muscles. This then reduces the tension. Regular Sports Massage helps to prevent the build up of tension. Self Myofascial Release (SMR) is the the next best thing to Sports Massage. This is basically breaking down the adhesions and sticky spots yourself and can be used between Sports Massage treatments to prolong the benefits of the treatment. There are quite a few products available for this, such as foam rollers, spiky balls, massage balls, you can even use tennis balls.