Although I’m a certified athletic trainer, it’s rare that I seek any type of physical treatment for myself. There are many reasons, but mostly I just feel bad about asking fellow clinicians to treat me when I know they’ve already been treating patients all day. Recently though, something wonderful happened. I asked Mark Shires, MS, ATC, PES, to treat my left shoulder and neck because of tension headaches I’ve been experiencing (for months at this point)… and he said yes!
Mark is not only a longtime friend to both myself and HawkGrips, but also works as an athletic trainer for Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles. So naturally, we decided to document the treatment for your viewing pleasure (see Instagram video clip at the end of this article).
I am a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do.” I have poor upper-body posture, protracted and anteriorly tilted scapula, and a forward head. I sleep on my left side — surprise! — the same side where I get tension headaches.
My headaches have become steadily more frequent over the past few months, from occurring a couple times each month to pretty much every day. They range from just an ache at the base of my skull to a full-fledged, classic “ram’s-horn pattern” headache around the entire left side of my head. I typically self-treat with stretching and ibuprofen when it becomes unbearable.
Mark has treated me before for tension headaches and I know that his distinctive cocktail of passive release, active therapy, and instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) with HawkGrips has worked wonders for me. Just one day after my treatment, I already applied the same therapy he performed on me to two of my coworkers!
It is becoming a normal occurrence for patients to complain of tension headaches, so clinicians who treat almost all walks of life should know how to successfully treat this condition. Here are a couple important points to keep in mind:
- The upper trapezius muscle is usually very hypertonic. Many people carry stress in their shoulders, have poor body mechanics, and/or sleep on their side with their shoulder “jacked up” and the upper trap and levator scapulae muscles in a shortened position for eight hours every night.
- When treated with IASTM, this area tends to develop petechiae very quickly due to the extreme hypertonicity. Please remember that your treatment should end once petechiae occur to avoid bruising your patient in a sensitive area (read: try not to give your patients hickies!). Fair-skinned patients, thin-skinned patients, and patients on blood thinners will all develop petechiae a lot faster than other individuals!
Now you may be thinking, “If I should stop treatment when my patient has petechiae, how can I treat a fair-skinned patient with tension headaches for longer than the 15 seconds it takes for petechiae to develop?”
The answer? Don’t treat her upper trap with IASTM the first time (or couple times) that you see her! Start with some passive-release techniques or dry needling to release the trigger points and encourage that muscle to relax a little, before you figuratively try to chip away a boulder with a dull chisel!
Instead, use IASTM on the oft-forgotten muscles — scalenes, sternocleidomastoid (SCM), and longus colli, to name a few. Framing out the anterior border of the upper trap and gently teasing through the scalenes will bring immense relief to most of the patients who walk through your door. This is exactly what Mark did for me.
First, he utilized passive release on my upper trap to address the “golf balls” he found there, before picking up the HawkGrips instruments and going to work on my scalenes and distal attachment of the SCM. As Mark treated me, my left temporalis and left eyelid were both twitching, which was mildly unnerving (pun intended!).
Right away, he was able to identify two or three “hotspots,” which I confirmed with him. Mark had me move through a slow, steady range of motion, cueing me to “take my chin towards my right knee, then look up towards a spot on the ceiling slightly over my right shoulder.”
At the same time, he encouraged me to very gently shrug up my left shoulder toward my left ear, then depress it to end range. Boy, were those “hotspots” tender at the end range! I could feel him decrease pressure when the tissue was on a stretch, in order to limit my reaction to pain and discomfort by muscle guarding.
Overall, the initial treatment lasted about seven minutes and elicited only mild redness, which went away in less than 15 minutes. He was then able to treat me again lightly about 45 minutes later, as you can see in the accompanying Instagram video. Mark prescribed stretching exercises and scapular stabilization strengthening, as well as a new pillow and sleeping position. A full day later, I still hadn’t experienced any tension headaches. I was mildly tender to palpation, but nothing that affected my activities of daily living and with no hickey-resembling spots to concern my husband. Overall, it was a wonderful treatment and I’m extremely grateful to Mark for taking the time to fix me!
We had a special guest in the office last week – Orioles Assistant Athletic Trainer Mark Shires. Director of Education Trista has been having tension headaches🤕, so Mark gave her a HawkGrips treatment while he was here! Here's some footage of her treatment 👆👍 . . . . . . . . . . @meshiresatc #hawkgrips #iastm #treatment #headache #tensionheadache #athletictraining #baseball #orioles #health #wellness #feelinggood #rehab #healing
Trista Barish is a certified athletic trainer in the Philadelphia area and previously served as the director of education at HawkGrips.
Pure Sweat is a basketball training company with Skills Coaches working across the US that offers a variety of products and services to players and coaches at every level...Drew Hanlen is the owner of Pure Sweat and an NBA Strategic Skills Coach & Consultant that...
Why Physical Therapist Dr. Keith Cronin Advocates Combining IASTM and Biomechanical Taping [Interview]
Dr. Keith J. Cronin, DPT, OCS, CSCS, has been a physical therapist for nine years and owns a niche distribution and education company in Denver called Sports and Healthcare Solutions, LLC. He works with innovative clinicians and companies from around the world to offer effective rehabilitative products and strategies that maximize patient outcomes. In 2018, Dr. Cronin will launch Biomechanikits, a distribution platform that combines quality education, great products and competitive pricing. He first became aware of HawkGrips about four years ago and soon implemented them into patient treatments.
How U.S. Paralympic Team Physical Therapist Dr. Dawn Gulick Helped Implement HawkGrips into the Widener University Curriculum [Interview]
Dr. Dawn Gulick, PhD, PT, ATC, CSCS, is a professor of physical therapy at Widener University in Chester, PA. She began her clinical career as an athletic trainer, before earning her master’s degree in physical therapy more than 30 years ago. Dr. Gulick has been a Widener faculty member for about 22 years and HawkGrips instructor for the past three years. In this Q & A article, she discusses her educational roles, extensive background with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams, and how HawkGrips treatment has been implemented into the curriculum at Widener.
As a doctor of chiropractic, I see many patients who suffer from limited range of motion, whether it’s cervical, lumbar or even an extremity. When I examine a patient and identify limited mobility in an area, my treatment protocol will not only consist of a chiropractic spinal adjustment, but also instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) with a HawkGrips instrument, along with corrective exercises and stretches. HawkGrips instruments are great tools to utilize in combination with chiropractic spinal adjustments…
Los Angeles Dodgers Physical Therapist Dr. Steve Smith Praises HawkGrips as the Best IASTM Products on the Market
My name is Dr. Steve Smith and I’m a sports physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist. I’ve been a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization since January 2012 and currently hold the position of major league physical therapist. Prior to joining the Dodgers, I earned a master’s degree from the The University of Maryland Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science in 2002, followed by a doctoral degree in 2003. I spent the first several years of my career working as a staff…
The human skin is the the largest organ of the integumentary system. It is enriched with dense neurological tissue that permeates the entire body and provides a uniquely accessible means of influencing tone and function of underlying structures. Fascia and muscle generate and transfer kinetic energy in an environment by which functional movement relies on a combination of elastic recoil and eccentric control around a focal, multi-planar axis.