Eye strain, bad posture, tech habits and stress are all leading factors in tension headaches and neck pain. Learn how to give yourself a tension-relieving head massage.
by James Han
Many of us spend a significant chunk of the day in front of a screen. In fact, the average American is on their phone for about 5.4 hours every day — and if you count the time spent in front of a laptop or desktop, that number climbs to 9.67 hours.
Combined with eye strain and bad posture, our tech habits are leading to a surge of “text neck,”symptoms of which include neck pain, reduced mobility and more. It’s estimated that 7 out of 10 Americans will experience neck pain at some point in their lives.
When you add chronic stress to the mix, you’re getting a recipe for tension headaches, spasms or worse. While the best long-term solution is to make serious lifestyle adjustments (such as practicing stress management techniques), you can find short-term relief through massage therapy. Here, we’ll explain what causes head and neck tension as well as how to give yourself a head massage.
Causes of Head and Neck Tension
According to Harvard Health, tension headaches are the most common type of headache. For most people, they feel like pressure or a tightening band around the skull, and can also be accompanied by pain behind the eyes or soreness of the neck and shoulders.
While the exact causes are still unknown, it’s generally accepted that they can be triggered by any activity that overstretches or causes contractions in the muscles of the head and neck regions. This includes hunching over a computer for a long period of time or slouching in bed while sending texts, but it also applies to individuals whose job requires heavy lifting or repetitive motions. Other stressors can be harder to pin down, such as caffeine, cold temperatures, dehydration, jaw clenching, skipping meals, eye strain and lack of sleep. In most cases, a tension headache will pass on its own or with light at-home care, but if it’s accompanied by fever, slurred speech, blurry vision or numbness, visit your doctor.
Benefits of a Head Massage
A head massage can help relieve some of the discomfort caused by tension in the head and neck as well as reduce the frequency of tension headaches. And there are other benefits, too. As it turns out, a scalp massage may stimulate hair follicles and dilate blood vessels beneath the skin, encouraging hair growth. One study found that participants who massaged their scalps for four minutes each day over a 24-week span experienced thicker hair by the end of the study. Another study discovered that a head massage may help your body regulate the production of cortisol (the stress hormone), blood pressure and heart rate.
How To Give Yourself a Head Massage
Giving yourself a tension-relieving head massage requires only a bit of time — and your fingertips. (If you’re feeling fancy, some massage oil, too.) Here, we’ll tell you how to treat tightness in three common problem areas: the scalp, neck and shoulders.
To massage your scalp, follow these steps:
- Sit down in a comfortable chair, drape a towel over your shoulders (if you’re using an oil) and set a vibe. Candles? Music? To kickstart the relaxation process, you can also take a dropperful of SLOW, an Ayurvedic tincture with adaptogenic essential oils and CBD that can help your body find calmness, comfort and balance.
- Lift your hands to your head (after dipping them into warm oil, if you’d like) and apply gentle to medium pressure on your scalp. Move your fingertips in slow, circular motions. If you want to feel energized, move your fingers vigorously.
- Cover your entire scalp, including your ears and neck, continuing the circular motions. Remember to inhale and exhale deliberately and deeply.
- Repeat over the entire head area, but instead of circular motions, gently pinch and knead the scalp.
To massage your neck, follow these steps:
- Sit down in a comfortable position and straighten your neck and back, and smooth a layer of The Root of it All CBD’s REWIND muscle rub onto the areas you plan to massage.
- Using your fingertips, press into your neck and make circular motions. Your pressure should be firm.
- When you reach the area where your neck meets your shoulder blades, pinch the corners tightly and knead the muscles between your fingers. Squeeze and hold for several breaths.
- Go around your entire neck region again, this time balling your hands into fists and digging your knuckles into your skin.
- Continue for up to five minutes.
This one requires a tennis ball, rubber ball or even an apple — whatever spherical object you have lying around the house:
- On a yoga mat or the carpet, place your ball or ball-shaped item at the location where you plan on resting your shoulder and upper back.
- Lie down, resting gently on the ball so that it’s sandwiched between you and the floor.
- Using your bent legs, push against the floor so that your body moves slowly over the ball. When you feel it hitting a tight spot, sink into the floor a bit and rock back and forth to allow the ball to loosen the knot.
- Continue moving in a free-flow, exploratory way until your back and shoulders feel relaxed.
James Han is a writer, editor and content strategist based in Los Angeles. When he’s not deep in a Google Doc, you can find him reading, watching films and taking long walks.
Spine-Health - Text Neck Symptoms and Diagnosis
Healthline - Benefits of a Head Massage
Journal of Physical Therapy Science - The Effect of a Scalp Massage on Stress Hormone, Blood Pressure, and Heart Rate of Healthy Female