Features,Guided Massage

Tension Headache Guided Massage

Learn massage for tension headaches self-help

Tension headaches are very common and can happen to anyone at anytime.  Whether you are having a very stressful day at work or at home; general intense worrying; not getting enough sleep; dehydration; straining your eyes when you need glasses, but still trying to read the computer or a book anyway; not eating when you should; or that one day when you forgot to have your coffee.

Tension headaches can be described as having mild to moderate pain or pressure behind the eyes, on the side of the head (either on one side or on both), in the front of the head (forehead), the back of the head near the top of the neck and/or on the top of the head.  Sometimes it can even be felt at the top half of the sinuses. Additional symptoms may include feeling very tired, irritability, sensitivity to light, and/or having trouble focusing.

So if you go through this you are probably wondering, “what can I do to relieve the pain and pressure; and by the way, I do not want to take pain medication”.  This article guides you through two massage techniques that will help relieve your headache.

Before starting the massage, here are some things you can do first:

The first thing to work on is to try and get ahead of what causes your symptoms.  Know what your triggers are and set yourself up for success.

If you tend to miss mealsmake sure you eat on time [meaning before the headache starts].

If you tend to get stressed out at work take some time out in your day and just breath. During your break [and by the way, if you don’t usually take a break, then make the effort to TAKE A BREAK!] go somewhere quiet, go outside, or even at your desk to do a little meditation.


Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and put a pillow (or a lumbar support cushion) behind you to support your back.

In the chair, you want to make sure that your legs are 90 degrees from hip to knees and 90 degrees from knees to ankles.  Feel the soles of your feet pressed gently on the ground.

Sit on the ground in criss cross “applesauce” if this is more comfortable than a chair, or if your feet does not relax flat on the ground when sitting in a chair.  When seated on the ground, feel your lower legs and buttocks gently, yet heavy on the ground. Be aware that your back is naturally straight, shoulders are back and down, head is inline with the spine – with the top of the head gently raised toward the ceiling. Even though you are making sure that you have ideal posture, you should not be stressed or tensed in this seated position.

Relax–  Take a moment to close your eyes only to relax the tension away, or combine closed eyes with the Guided Massage Techniques that are mentioned below. Doing this first steps will give you better results with your massage.  So, let’s get started.


 These are some suggested back support cushions for office chairs and cushions for sitting on the floor as suggested above

May your breath be as  light as a gentle breeze

Take notice of your breathing.  If it’s shallow [meaning you feel the rise and fall from your breath in your upper chest primarily], then deepen your breath so that your whole torso [front, sides and back; from your collar bones to your belly; softly and fluidly] moves with each inhale and exhale.  Take your time.  If you are new to deep breathing exercises, count 3 slow inhales and 3 slow exhales.  If you feel like your are struggling with a slower speed, don’t give up – keep practicing, but just speed up just enough until the flow is comfortable and relaxing. 

Notice that when you change the deepness and rhythm of your breath there is a full body “letting go” that happens.

With your breath, create a softness in the center of your body.  As you do this, notice that your body is getting heavier and letting go more and more with each exhale.

Also with the breath, began to feel your mind softening and letting go.  Dare yourself to let all thoughts and concerns fall away. They will be there when you are done, and when you can actually deal with them.  So for now let them go.


These massage techniques can definitely be done at the office or where ever you are when experiencing pain. However, they are also best done during a warm shower or bath.  The heat of the water help to relax the muscles faster and can make gliding easier.  It also provides a way to feel the muscles better to tell how much they are knotted and if the area needs more focus work or pressure.

Understanding Pressure

Bring your four fingers together, and with most of the pressure being on the two middle fingers (middle and ring), gauge the amount of pressure you can withstand on your temples and forehead.

  • Light Pressure – is just touching the skin. When massaging, your pressure is not as deep, but you are still moving the skin around.
  • Moderate Pressure – slightly more pressure than light; just touching fascia and the top layer of muscles beneath the skin. When massaging, you are moving these layers around.
  • Firm Pressure – is deeper than moderate, but enough that you can still slide the fingers around.  Be mindful.  You don’t want to go too deep to where you cause bruising and make your headache worst.

Note: using moderate to firmer pressure may bring better results for this particular technique.


Start by noticing where your headache or tension is located.  forehead, temples, top of the head or back of the head


Once you find your pressure level for massaging and your breathing pattern, start at the frontal tip of the temples [feel for the bony area off from the forehead {just on the outer ends of the brows} then move just enough, toward the ears until it feels more fleshy but on the edge of the bones or leveled with the eyebrows]

Go nice and slow. Began your massage flow by inhaling as you start to move your fingers. As you continue, let the breath flow deep and natural.

Guided Massage for Tension Headaches

Start at the temples, then glide your fingers across the forehead

Use the pads of the fingers – each hand on each side of the head as shown in the photograph to the left.  Slide the fingers  up from the temples and across the forehead towards each other until the fingers touch in the middle.

Keeping the same pressure, continue to move down the center of the forehead to the bridge of the nose stopping at the center where it is still bony [if the skin bunches up as you pass through that area, then gently lift the eyebrows  ].

Come down the sides of the bony area of the nose and out the sides to the front edge of the cheek bones.  Pause at the cheek bones for a half a second  [maybe with a little more pressure here] and take a deep breath in and out. Then reverse your flow.

As you flow back up – pass through more of the outside of the nose bridge and around the bony ridge of the eye socket.  Follow the eye socket ridge all the way back to the temples.


1  Bring moderate to firm pressure to the mid, bottom of the cheek bones [shown below hand 1] bringing the pressure upward with the fingertips and hold that pressure –  while taking deep breaths in & releasing breaths out – until you feel relief.

2   Go slightly closer to the ears, right to where the jaw begins, but below the cheek bone  in the same area [shown in the image to the right hand 2] and bring pressure straight in and hold.

Take a deep breath, and totally let go on the exhale. 

3   Bring the tops of your thumbs up under your jaw and apply pressure [hand 3]. [Do not press in with your nails.  If you have long nails, then use your thumb pads] Press around until you find release.

Another hand position is to caress your face with your four fingers closed while applying pressure with your thumbs.  At the same time you could press your fingers on your cheek bones with moderate pressure.

Each compression should be held for a least 3 deep breaths. 

Video Guide on How to use massage to resolve tension headaches

with Carla Moodie, Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT)

Tension Headaches: Resolve without medication www.ISHealingLife.com

So the next time you get a tension headache, try any of these techniques and let me know how they work for you.  Also, if you found this helpful, let us know and feel free to share.  You never know, someone else just may need this information for relief.

Featured photo credits: Copyright: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo

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