"HEADACHES ARE NOT ALL IN YOUR HEAD"
By Mary Jo Smiley CMTPT, LMT
Sarah had been involved in a relatively minor motor vehicle accident. She was hit from behind but it didn't do a LOT of damage to the car. For a minute she just sat there till someone came to help her. Her head and neck hurt some and since she had not even seen it coming, she was pretty shook up. But she got out and walked around a bit, the pain was mild and she figured she would be fine. Within days she was experiencing rather severe headaches that seemed to be getting worse and called her doctor to make an appointment. Sarah felt that she wasn't getting much relief with over the counter medications and they only went a way for a few hours and returned. She was reluctant to use prescription drugs, but accepted the prescription from her doctor for stronger pain meds, but still got very little relief from the headaches.
A week later, she returned to her doctor, since the headaches had not responded much. At that point she asked about massage because she had heard a friend rave about how well having trigger point therapy helped! Her Doctor was skeptical, but agreed to let her try it since her shoulders and neck were really tight and her range of motion in her neck was worse than last week. Medical massage is covered by most auto insurance companies.
Lets look at why treating the trigger points is so effective, non-invasive, empowering and should be considered for the first line treatment and not “last resort”.
An in-depth evaluation including an extensive review of medical history, details of the accident and Range of Motion tests should be part of the first session. We look for specific tender areas and restriction in muscles indicating the presence of trigger points. Trigger points are a hypersensitive “knots” of pain in a muscle that restricts range of motion, referring pain in a predictable pattern (usually) away from the site of the trigger point.
Consistent with a whiplash injury, many upper back and neck muscles were involved, two most prominently. One, the trapezius (illustration A) refers a very familiar pain pattern up the back of the neck and into the temples. The sternocleidomastoid (SCM for short) was the other. (Illustration B) These muscles check-reins excessive forward and backward motion of the head, which often happens in an auto accident, even more so if hit from behind! The common diagnosis is "whiplash injury" or "cervical sprain/strain".
The Upper Trapezius muscle usually has trigger points in it. The common pain pattern is the classic tension headache, up the back of the neck and into the temples. Almost ALL tension headaches are the pain pattern of this muscle. Of course, there are many muscles that were also offended by the unexpected and sudden forward and slam back against the head rest. Each one will be examined and treated if needed.
The SCM can also produce pain, but in addition, this muscle often mimics; the symptoms of a migraine headache including pain on one side of the head, tearing of the eyes, ringing in one ear, runny nose, nausea, dizziness, loss of balance and blurring vision.
After appropriate treatment with Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy, Sarah no longer had head and neck pain. All of the symptoms of the migraine headaches were resolved. In addition, she is no longer getting frequent “tension headaches” and knows what to do when she feel on coming on!
Trigger points are not always caused by trauma, most of the time they are caused by every day improper posture, repetitive motion, head forward postures while working or driving, old injuries (even 20 years ago or more), and a multitude other factors.
Have chronic headaches or migraines?
Tired of hearing it's all in your head, talking pills,
loosing work or fun times with friends or family?
Call our office and set up a free 30 minute consultation. 724-494-1468
I invite you to download and print the free 30 minute evaluation form from the link below. It gives permission from your doctor for me to evaluate and treat you and assures me that the doctor has looked for medically serious causes of head pain and migraines.