Treating Tension Headaches Through Massage Therapy
Published on Apr 29, 2021

At Knead to Balance, one of the most common problems our clients come to us with are headaches. We hear it a lot – “I have this annoying headache that just keeps coming back”, “it’s like there’s a circle of pain around my head”, or “by the end of the day my head is throbbing”.

What many people don’t realize is that they’re likely suffering from a tension headache. A tension headache will oftentimes cause pain in the temples, jaw, back of the neck, or forehead. This type of headache is usually caused by physical or psychological stress placed on the body or neck area.

During massage therapy in patients suffering from tension headaches, RMTs usually discover that their suboccipital muscles are tense or strained. These muscles can be found in the back of our neck, right beneath our skull. When these muscles become tense and strained they can cause pain almost anywhere in the neck or head. They can also cause discomfort in the side of the head, behind the ears, jaw area, forehead, and temples.

The problem with tension headaches is that they tend to be ignored by those suffering from them. Whether it’s because they’ve been accepted the headache as a regular irritation or that they’re unsuccessfully trying different relief methods; tension headaches can be simply relieved with massage therapy.

Suboccipital muscles play a key role in our daily lives: keeping our head balanced on our body. Between daily activities, work, kids, sports, and whatever else our busy lives may bring us; it comes as no surprise that these muscles get overworked and in turn, we get tension headaches!

There’s no way to avoid our daily priorities however there are ways to relieve your tension headaches!

First and foremost, we recommend regular targeted massage therapy on your suboccipital and surrounding muscles to relax, heal, and strengthen these areas. Between massages we recommend practicing the following exercises:

1.      Give your eyes a break:

You may be experiencing or developing tension headaches due to eye fatigue. No matter what you’re doing, you should always give your eyes a break periodically. Whether you’re driving, working, reading – try to not stare at one thing for more than 20 minutes at a time.

2.      Take a screen break:

It’s not new news that desk jobs can be hard on our entire body. Desk jobs are also a culprit for developing chronic tension headaches. Between looking at a screen, not moving around enough, and bad placement of work tools, your body can easily and frequently become strained. If you have a desk job you should try to give your body a break for a least 5 minutes every hour.

3.      Stretch it out: 

We cannot stress the importance of stretching enough (especially if you’re suffering from tension headaches!). The only way you will be able to relieve tension headaches successfully is through regular stretching. Try to do at least 10 minutes of targeted stretching daily. If you’re not sure what type of stretching you can do to relieve tension headache pains, just ask your massage therapist to provide you with a few ideas.

4.      Visit your optician:

If your problem is chronic make an appointment with your eye doctor. If you’re in need of glasses or a prescription change your eyes may be strained during all waking hours trying to help you see fully. This causes the muscles in your head to tense up and will cause you to experience tension headaches.

5.      Drink something calming:

Many people will find that their tension headaches are worse in the evening. With a days work behind you, you’re most likely in need of some relaxation (and so are your suboccipital muscles!). Many herbal teas such as peppermint or chamomile have calming properties that can help you wind down after a hectic day. This is good for you physically and psychologically!

At Knead to Balance we have massage treatments that can help you relieve your tension headaches whether you’ve had them for a couple of days or a couple of years.

Finding the trigger points (TrPs) in your body that are the root cause of your discomforts can only be done with the help of a Registered Massage Therapist. Once this is accomplished, we can then work with you to create a plan to help ensure that you have the right treatment, wellness information, and exercises need to keep the aches and pains away!

To book a massage appointment please email us at As a registered massage and Pilates clinic our service can be covered under health benefits. 

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