While it may seem like the most effective way to combat a headache is to seek out an over-the-counter or prescription pain reliever, a natural solution may not only relieve your headache faster but attack the pain at its source. . If tension or migraine headaches are caused by muscle tension, then it makes more sense to relieve the tension rather than just numb the pain.

Tension headaches

It is likely that three of the muscles belonging to the suboccipital group at the base of the skull are responsible for many cases of tension headache; These muscles are the rectus of the greater posterior head, the rectus of the lesser posterior head, and the oblique of the superior head. All three muscles attach to the skull; the first two connect to the upper cervical vertebrae in the neck and the third connects to another muscle in the neck.

The suboccipital muscles are responsible for extending the head or lifting the head. These muscles are usually tight in people with the head forward. This postural dysfunction occurs when the head extends forward from the center line of the body; the suboccipitals must work overtime to keep the head facing forward from this position.

Place your fingertips at the back of your head and arch your neck back; You may feel your skull muscles tense. When the suboccipitals tighten, they pull on the muscles throughout the skull. This tension is believed to result in tension headaches – the throbbing, pain, and tightness that engulfs the head for hours or days.

Chronic tension in the suboccipital muscles can cause trigger points – knots that form in the connective tissue surrounding the muscles that make it difficult to relax. Myofascial release is a targeted form of massage therapy designed to loosen tight connective tissue. You can practice auto-myofascial release (SMR) at home with the use of a trigger point device to treat suboccipital tension.

You can watch a video of SMR suboccipital at http://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=kHF95SF8cYw. Be careful not to roll onto your spine when performing this technique. When you find a tender knot, stop and apply deep, sustained pressure for 30 seconds.


There is a theoretical connection between migraine headaches and the posterior rectus muscle of the minor head. This muscle connects to the dura, a pain-sensitive protective layer that supports the brain. Tension in this muscle can pull on the dura and this can cause a migraine.

See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14979889 for more information on this connection.

If dural traction is the cause of your migraine headaches, then a simple SMR may be enough to ease the pain. Before taking medication the next time, consider trying this technique.

In addition to myofascial release, you will need to work to correct postural distortion and other causes of chronic muscle tension such as stress. Chronic pain often has a complex of causes and, therefore, solutions; Look for natural treatments before investing in risky and invasive methods.

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