On Wednesday, Lillee Chandra began a discussion on triggering migraine headaches with self-massage. Next up, Todd Lavictoire considers the pain avoidance issue when dealing with triggers:

When considering self massage and myofascial release, headaches and migraines can be a complicated topic. It is very true, that for some, including those with TMJ, Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls can trigger headaches. Even I can trigger headaches on myself if I go too deep in the trapezius muscles or if I go too hard on the temporalis. But therein lies part of the answer I’ve come to with my students: many of us need to moderate the pressure we use when working in and around the tissues of the head and neck.

Let’s not, however, confuse moderation with avoiding these areas all together. If they are triggers to tension headaches and migraines, then they are most certainly areas that need work. Going “balls to the wall,” (i.e. practicing the technique in a standing position at the wall rather than on the floor) or finding broken in and softer balls are a few of the regular tricks that we use to reduce the pressure. Remember – it doesn’t get better by avoiding it.

As guides in the process, we must understand that it can be easy to trigger headaches with some clients. With these clients we need to to go upstream, downstream and around the front or back from the normal headache triggers. At first, we might also consider leaving out the tissues that clients report as containing more fear/resistance, until they get used to the process of self myofascial release and its benefits. Once the client trusts, then we can better approach the tissues that are headache triggers, but only after the tensigrity in the related networks (uptown/downtown/around the corner) has been reduced and the client is completely on board with the process of excavating these problematic areas.

We must also make certain that if there is fear in the client that we are embedding them with an appropriate sankalpa or resolve for support and lasting change. If there is fear, the body and its tissues are in a contracted state and headaches will most certainly be easier to trigger, making the headache a self fulfilling prophecy. Think of the sankalpa as part of the client’s toolkit towards turning the tide on their fear and embedding their tissues with the power for lasting change.

Finally, we must also make certain to empower the client by educating them as to how relevant postural dysfunctions may be contributing to their headaches and tension. We are guides in the process of unwinding the tension, but the client must understand that they need to be active participants in the day to day management of their own tissues’ tension. Once they understand that by better managing their daily posture that they are diminishing their own contributions to the tension in their triggers, they make the unfolding of tension through self myofascial release less problematic, more effective and longer lasting!

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