When headaches are really in your face and cranium!heada

Published in May Issue of Tampa Bay Magazine

 Many patients arrive with mystery headaches, they have been to many doctors, and they have had MRI’s of the neck and head which found no tumors nor cancers and no reason for the pressure, tightness, and pain in the head. 

When I touch the muscles at the side of the neck, I often find pain and tightness in the head. In addition, tight neck muscles with a forward head posture often indicate an irregular opening and closing of the jaw. Sometimes the eyes and ears are not quite symmetrical or level, and the scalp is often very tight and painful.

Recently I had an interesting case with all of these symptoms.  Jane’s story was this: 25 years ago she was in a severe auto accident during which she hit the windshield. She was treated over the years with chiropractic as well as by other doctors. She related that she had head pain and tightness in her low back. Jane was given a dental splint for her jaw pain (TMJ), which she said did not help. Nothing seemed to help, and over the years her head got tighter and tighter with pain and pressure. She had tests and MRI’s, but nothing much was discovered.

When I began to touch her, I noticed the tightness in the neck muscles and the face muscles and the congestion in the right side of the face where the pain was most severe. I also noticed that the skull or cranium was very tight and slightly asymmetrical. These clues gave me an idea of what might help her body be happier. I started with some lymphatic drainage to the head and neck, a very light touch therapy for the tissue congestion, and then moved into some very gentle craniosacral therapy. I soon found that the jaw tightness needed to be addressed, and I worked with a cold stone and gentle tissue stretching to eliminate trigger points in the face and neck. After a second visit, Jane was beginning to feel a difference. She brought in her old dental splint, and I suggested that she have a new evaluation of her TMJ.

The next area to work with was the cranium or skull. Many think that the bones in the head are static and unmoving. Not so. Dr John Upledger, D.O., and the Upledger Institute have done extensive research on the plates of the head and their micro movements. They have found that the tiny spaces between the bones are full of tiny vessels and connective tissue. I have studied for many years with the Upledger Institute and with Dr. Hancock’s Cranial Therapy, which release the tissue tightness over of the cranium, so I started a series of gentle cranium and facial releases. As the cranium and face muscles loosened, the pressure and pain was reduced. Many of the puzzle pieces were falling into place. But the back of the head still remained very tight, so I went to the abdomen and did a gentle release of the hip flexors followed by a sacral release. Ah ha: The last puzzle piece! Then the back of the head started to let go of its tension too.

We still have a way to go with helping Jane’s body become happy, but there is hope that, as she becomes more balanced and the muscular and fascia restrictions are released, her body will regain its vitality and heath.

Healing is not an event, it is a process. Sometimes our bodies need a little help in regaining balance. Successful massage therapy is not dependent on how deep the pressure is but on how the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and fascia are worked with to help you regain balance and healing from within.

Deborah Karlan, L.M.T. has been a therapist for 35 years and practices in  Clearwater Florida.

Call or text me for questions or appointments at (727) 641-8969.

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