Tension headaches are a very common problem, and when they start happening frequently enough to interfere with one’s life, they definitely require treatment! The cause of tension headaches from a biomedical perspective remains unknown, but we do know that most are triggered by or exacerbated by stress, and many involve muscle tension or spasms in the muscles of the scalp, face, neck, or upper back.
Unfortunately, there are not many mainstream medical treatments for tension headaches aside from over the counter or prescription pain relieving medication. Luckily, integrative medicine therapies have stepped in to fill that void, and can often be very helpful at treating tension headaches. Craniosacral Therapy is one such excellent treatment option, both for helping a tension headache to abate in the moment, but also for reducing the occurrence of the headaches over time.
Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a gentle form of bodywork that focuses on the articulation of bones of the skull, spine, and sacrum. The goal of CST is to release compression in these areas, and harmonize the body with the natural rhythms of the central nervous system, to release pain and stress stored in the tissues.
CST can be a very useful treatment option for tension headaches, as it works to release tension in the meningeal membranes and the fascia surrounding the brainstem and spinal cord. The meninges are very pain-sensitive tissues – and we know from other forms of bodywork (such as myofascial release or massage therapy) that when the fascia (dense connective tissue) is bound up, we often experience pain at another point down or up that fascial line. Taking this explanations together, along with the pronounced relaxation effect that patients experience with a CST treatment, you can see why this modality can be a great treatment for headache pain. The goal of a treatment plan is to prevent the tension headaches from occurring, by reteaching the body to access healthier natural rhythms and patterns.
Unfortunately, not much clinical research has been done on craniosacral therapy to date. But more and more primary care physicians and neurologists are referring their chronic headache patients for craniosacral therapy, as patients continue to report positive results.