Healthcare Worker Headaches – Selfcare For PPE-induced Headaches
A recent conversation with someone who works in the emergency department of a busy hospital revealed an aspect of today’s pandemic that we don’t always hear about in today’s headlines, namely that of headaches. Specifically, hospital workers who must wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are getting headache pain from the added burden of wearing masks and eye/face protection.
A recent search of this phenomenon has so far turned up a couple articles for me so far:
- One study finds a strong correlation between wearing PPE and various types of headaches: https://bit.ly/2WUta7m So, R________ (the person who alerted me about this), your concerns are certainly validated.
- Another study implicates the Trigeminal Nerve as a culprit (or victim!): https://bit.ly/2y3hLtr
In the past few decades, the therapy world’s focus for headache pain has mostly been on relief of tension, as “tension headaches” fit neatly into our general scopes of practice. Either through manual therapy, stretching exercises, or even self-massage using hands or various props, like tennis balls and foam rollers. More recent knowledge has informed our professions about the role of nerve irritation or sensitivity in terms of pain and tension, hence the emphasis on the word “gentle” in the following suggestions for self-care. It’s been quite clear that tender nerves have a lot to do with many headaches people commonly get, hence the emphasis below on soothing where these nerves exist.
*** Please note that this article is no substitute for a physician’s advice, so please check with your current medical practitioner before engaging in any of these self-treatments. ***
Selfcare For PPE-induced Headaches:
Gentle scalp massage – fingertip pressure, pulling, and stretching of the skin of the upper skull, either using slow motion, or sustained static stretch wherever feels relieving
Gentle neck and shoulder massage – because tension in these areas can contribute to headaches
Gentle jaw stretching and yawning actions – because jaw muscle tension can contribute to overall tension, and possibly even increase scalp tension due to the muscular attachments
Also, this unique self-treatment invented by local registered massage therapist, Michael Reoch, RMT, designed to relieve pressure on the Trigeminal Nerve. Again, go gently:
(photo used with permission)
It goes without saying, but thank you to all the healthcare workers out there in the front lines, dealing with our sick and in trouble people when social distancing and other efforts sometimes fail. We hope this article is of some use to you, and we’ll be standing by ready to help in our usual capacity when we’re given the go-ahead by all the right authorities to resume practice!