Christmas shopping. Planning holiday parties. The kids’ school play. Prepping for games and holiday marathons. Wrapping all the presents before Santa has to have them under the tree. 

There are lots of things to deal with during the winter season — you don’t need to deal with the weight of holiday headaches, too.

All of the events that come with the holiday season contribute a lot to stress, and stress means headaches.

Headaches are just one of the side effects of inefficiently managed holiday stress. But a good massage treatment can help you get back on your feet so you can win the season.

Woman suffering from a headache over the holidays.


Why am I Getting these Headaches?

The most common type of headache – and the ones you’re probably getting from holiday stress – are tension headaches. 69% of men and 88% of women experience tension headaches during their lives.

They’re referred to as tension headaches because of the muscle tension which induces them.

The muscles attached at the occiput (the “bump” part of the bone on the back of your head) are usually the overly tight muscles triggering the headache. They are:

  • Splenius capitis – runs from the very top of the back to the skull
  • Trapezius – runs from the upper back to the skull
  • Sternocleidomastoid – runs from the front of the neck to the chest and attaches to the base of the skull
  • Levator scapulae – runs under the trapezius and up the neck to the skull; this muscle plays a huge part in how the skull is positioned


How these muscles become tense:

  • Stress – We’ve already mentioned this cause, and for good reason: 62% feel that the holidays increase our stress levels. When we feel stressed, our bodies respond by creating a rigid stiffness in the upper body. If we sustain this feeling for a period of time, it turns into long term tension and pain.
  • Poor posture – Many of us work desk jobs during the day and are constantly leaning forward, resulting in what’s called Tech Neck. The muscles in our neck and upper back become tense and strained from holding this position.
  • Various other factors – Other sources of muscle tension include repetitive movements in sports and prior injuries.


How to Relieve Holiday Headaches and Tension

The first step is figuring out if your pain is due to tension or not. Migraine sufferers endure pain during the holidays, but theirs is more than likely due to a trigger, not tension. If you think you think the pain you’re experiencing is from a migraine, you will want to speak to a healthcare professional.

But if you think you are suffering from tense muscles, there are a few things you can do to find relief:

  • Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine is known to increase stress hormones. So if you’re already suffering from the stress this time of year, put down your coffee and pick up a bottle of water to curb those holiday headaches.
  • Heat helps. Heat soothes tight muscles, so try a hot shower or hot water bottle before bed.
  • Drink in moderation. Most of us enjoy the “merry and bright” portion of the season, but alcohol intake can increase the feeling of stress. And more stress means more tension.
  • Take personal time. There’s always so much to do during the winter season, but if your suffering from holiday headaches, there’s little you can do for yourself that’s better than taking a break. Go to a yoga class, take a drive to look at Christmas lights, or grab a hot cup of tea and a book.
  • Set a regular sleep schedule. A full night’s rest can help relax and restore muscles as well as decrease stress hormones.


Someone pouring herbal tea into a mug with a knitted coozy.


Get a Massage

We may have every intention of following the above suggestions, but life always seems to get in the way. When that happens and the tension returns, schedule a massage. Therapeutic massage is known to combat the effects of stress. It doesn’t matter if you opt for a relaxation massage, deep tissue massage, or something a little more specialized – just let your therapist know ahead of time that you are afflicted by tension headaches so they know what to focus on.