You may or may not be surprised to realise that headaches affect about 80% of our population, according to the Nurofen website (Nurofen produces painkillers). That is an awful lot of pain. Your headaches may range from being a mild annoyance or they may be debilitating. This is something I see a lot in my clinic. In this this blog I will share with you things that may help you to be pain free.
I consider myself to be fortunate as headaches are something I don’t get at all. Although, that hasn’t always been the case. When I was a kid, I used to get some blinding headaches. We lived on a new estate which was not complete when we moved in and I remember laying awake in bed at night while the nightshift continued building the rest of the estate. I often wondered why the houses that were being built through the night involved men banging on steel reinforcing girds. All night. And why that was so painful. It didn’t take me long to realise that there were no houses being built at night. That sound and its resultant pain felt as though it was inside my head.
Where does the answer lie?
You could be forgiven for assuming that the pain is inside your head or in your brain. Reasonable assumption. The brain doesn’t have any pain receptors. So, your brain doesn’t have the means to feel pain, but it can’t half let you know about the pain that is coming from elsewhere. More on that later.
You may or may not have heard of Travel and Simons. They were doctors and dedicated their lives to studying myofascial pain. They mapped out pain patterns and showed, through illustrations, just how trigger points ( or knots ) can be the cause of pain.
Not everything is quite what it seems to be…
One interesting thing is that about 70% of trigger points refer their pain elsewhere. Their body of work is immense. A real gem and great gift to the world. Before we continue, just a quick explanation of the myofascia. These are the membranes that surround muscles and muscle fibres. This is what gives your body it’s form and structure. Quick enough?
As I promised you earlier, I shall demonstrate. I’ll include some pictures of Tarquin which will show you one or more trigger points and the referred pain pattern. Tarquin has an amazing ability to peel back his skin. Which is handy. For me.
You can see in this image the three amber dots that are arranged on the cleido-mastoid aspect of the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle. The shaded regions above them show the area where these trigger points refer their pain to.
In this picture, you can see some of the associated pain patterns the are caused by the four trigger points of the sterno-mastoid aspect of the SCM muscle.
Here the amber dot you can see, where our friends skin ends, is the trigger point that relates to three pain patterns above it.
There are other trigger points which are associated with headaches. The purpose of this article is just to give you a brief overview.
Do it yourself!
I hope this blog has given you an insight into some of the likely, and sometimes surprising, causes of headaches and migraines too. There is an excellent book I recommend by Clair Davis which has a really snappy title: The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self -Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. This is really a distillation of the work of Travell and Simons. It is well written and illustrated and shows you how you can help yourself and gives some insight into the absorbing world of the sources of pain.
I’ll expand on trigger points next time.
Warmest regards and I’ll see you next time, Kevin.
All images (c) Kevin Bryden 2016