We all know the debilitating effects of a bad headache, but luckily most of us don’t have to suffer them too often.

  • For some people however,
  • they are a frequent occurrence and using pain medication to get through them doesn’t actually tackle the underlying cause.
  1. Headaches can have a number of causes;
  2. hormonal changes as part of your monthly
  3. cycle or the early stages of pregnancy, dehydration, eye strain from staring at a computer, muscle tension in your neck and shoulders or the stress of a complicated and busy life!

There may be some things that you can’t change about your work or home life but if muscle tension in your neck and shoulders is part of the problem there are some positive steps that you can take to treat this yourself at home.

Which muscles can cause headaches?

There are number of muscles in the neck which when they become tense can develop trigger points which can refer pain to different parts of your head.

One of the major culprits of head pain is a muscle called sternocleidomastoid.

This is a thick muscle at the front of your neck which runs from the base of your scull, just behind your ear, to the point where your collar bones meet in the centre of your chest. To treat trigger points within this muscle you simply need to squeeze it between your thumb and curled fingers in a pincer grip. It is easier to grab hold of the muscle if your head is tilted towards the side that you are treating. As you work your way along this muscle squeezing different sections you will find that some points are tender and you might also feel pain referred to different parts of your head. When you find such a point, hold it so that the pain is easily bearable and just hold it for about 20 seconds and you should start to feel the pain subside as the muscle begins to let go. You can go back and treat this point two or three times and each time the pain should reduce.

Another muscle that can harbour trigger points that refer pain to your head are the sub-occipital muscles, the tiny muscles located just below the base of your skull.

You can apply pressure to these muscles up using a spiked massage ball. Use the ball up against a wall on lying on your back on the floor to apply gentle pressure to any tender points along the base of your skull. Hold for 5–10 secs until the pain begins to reduce.

If you tend to clench your jaw you might find that this is an area where you hold tension.


You can ease this by massaging the chunky masseter muscle that runs between your cheek bone and your lower jaw bone. You can massage this muscle using circular motions on the outside of your jaw to encourage it to relax. You can again treat any trigger points lurking in this muscle by gently pressing into it the muscle and holding pressure on any tender spots.

Hopefully you will find these self-massage techniques a useful tool for easing your headaches, but just a quick word of warning … you are pregnant or if your symptoms persist for several days it is advisable to see your GP or midwife.