Migraines are very common and affect over 6 million people in the UK, that’s over 10% of the adult population. Migraines are much more than just headaches and as well as head pain symptoms can include nausea, sensitivity to light & sound, visual aura, numbness & tingling, vertigo, sweating, brain fog and digestive upsets. Some people suffer from silent migraines, where there is no head pain but some combination of the other symptoms.
Triggers for Migraines
The triggers or causes for migraines are sometimes hard to pinpoint, but common triggers can include:
- Food & drink – cheese, chocolate, nuts, processed foods, wine
- Bright light
- Disturbed sleep including travel & jetlag
- Hormonal changes including periods and menopause
- Weather changes
Tissue Tension also triggers migraines
Another trigger which is not as commonly mentioned is tension in the soft tissues of the body in particular the fascia and muscles, which are jointly known as the myofascia. Fascia is the main connective tissue in the body and as such creates a three-dimensional network throughout the body wrapping around and through muscles, nerves, blood vessels, bones and organs.
When fascia changes from its normal fluid state to tighten and become restricted, this puts pressure on the structures contained within it. This helps to explain why tight fascia can contribute to migraine symptoms when muscles, nerves or blood vessels are constricted. In particular the tissues in the head, neck, shoulders and upper back can play an important role in migraines. Often releasing these areas can help to reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines.
Fascial restrictions can be caused by injuries & accidents, surgery & scar tissue, repetitive movements (eg computer work or sports), posture, stress or, for most of us, some combination of these. Myofascial release is both a gentle hands-on therapy and self-help technique that can help to gradually undo the restrictions that are causing problems and return the body to a more normal balance.
How myofascial release can help
Working with a trained myofascial therapist can help to identify which areas in your body are tight and causing your symptoms. Although the upper body areas mentioned above are obvious culprits, for some people their symptoms may be due to an imbalance in their pelvis creating a twist in the spine that travels all the way up to the head. It is important therefore for the therapists to look at the body as a whole, helping to release any restrictions they find.
Self-help myofascial release
Using self-help myofascial exercises you can also release your fascia through simple stretches and ball exercises. Try this exercise to release tension in the back of your neck:
Using 2 inflatable myofascial balls (or tennis balls), place them in a small bag or sock so they stay together. Lie on the floor or your bed and place the balls under your neck so that they sit on either side of your spine. You may want to place a small pillow under the top of your head so your head remains comfortable as the tissues start to release. Allow your body to relax onto the balls and be here for at least 2 minutes to allow time for the fascia to start to let go. As you are here you may feel various sensations that come and go. Done regularly this exercise helps to reduce tension in the muscles and fascia that attach into the back of your skull.
Watch our video to learn more about triggers for migraines: