A pain in the neck … and head, and eyes

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published June 30, 2015

 Certified massage therapist Lori Sharp hones in on the sinuses during a massage for a client with seasonal headaches.

Certified massage therapist Lori Sharp hones in on the sinuses during a massage for a client with seasonal headaches.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

The fellow in the cubicle next to you has been coming in each morning with red, tired eyes. He’s rubbing his throbbing temples throughout the day and always has a stash of Ibuprofen on hand.

There’s a good chance your cube pal isn’t an all-night partier, but rather, a daily sufferer of seasonal allergies. And he’s not alone. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, as many as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children in the United States are affected by nasal allergies.

Dr. Jane Krasnick, of Warren Allergy and Asthma Care, can attest to that. She has plenty of patients coming to see her with seasonal allergy woes ranging from itchy, watery and swollen eyes to nasal congestion and pressure, coughing, sore throats and everything in between.

And those are just the patients who feel bad enough to actually book an appointment.

“We kind of see the worst of the worst in the office,” Krasnick explained. “People who have milder symptoms who can manage with over-the-counter medications don’t come to see us. They come in when they’ve already tried those and need a better, more definitive approach.”

There are lots of times when allergy sufferers can’t find relief from popping a simple drugstore antihistamine, Krasnick said. With the help of a doctor, they can dig deeper to get to the root of their problem — or problems — and find a fix that will really work.

“It’s all going to depend on the time of year and what’s going on in the person’s environment. For instance, dust mites are a year-round allergen, but they need a certain amount of humidity. So that might subside during the winter and flare up again in the spring, and someone might assume (they’re allergic to) pollen. There’s really an art to talking with the patient and getting to know their lifestyle.”

Krasnick said she often starts treating new patients with an in-depth history analysis: What’s their home life like, do they have pets, when do their symptoms tend to flare up the most? Then, if it’s still not clear from conversation what the allergic trigger could be, she might move on to a skin test to definitively determine allergens.

Once those are nailed down, it’s possible that patients could simply avoid their triggers daily without much hassle to control their symptoms. But if the allergen is naturally in the environment and can’t be removed — like, for instance, pollen in the air — medication or even immunotherapy, or allergy shots, could do the trick.

In determining which allergens a patient has, Krasnick said an equally important part of her process is determining when allergens aren’t present.

“Typically, if it’s just a headache, there’s nasal congestion with it. A lot of times, that could be just barometric pressure, not allergic triggers,” she said. “People can have one or the other or both, and it can be very confusing. ‘Why isn’t my Claritin working?’ Or maybe they have a TMJ (temporomandibular joint) issue. I touch their TMJ, and they jump off the table. We know when it’s not allergies and when to guide them for treatment to something else.”

Lori Sharp has seen that a number of times. A certified massage therapist at Lori Sharp Massage Therapy in Birmingham, she said clients are often surprised to learn that the source of their sinus and allergy issues could be linked to another body ailment.

“A lot of it could be muscle tension that’s just got the sinus points inflamed,” said Sharp. “You never know when I might be working on a client’s arm, and suddenly they feel their sinuses open up. You don’t know what could be causing that.”

Sharp said there are a number of emotional problems, namely stress, that can cause physical symptoms. Mild allergies could be combined with chronic muscle tension due to emotional trauma or stress, resulting in severe sinus symptoms.

That’s why Sharp offers, among her other massage therapy services, TMJ treatment, sinus massage and craniosacral therapy. While all three have a different focus, a main goal of the treatments is to get the client to relax the muscles that are working overtime and causing pain and congestion.

The sinus massage, Sharp said, can even be done at home. Someone suffering from ongoing sinus headaches and congestion could hop online and look up where the sinuses are in the face for a gentle rubdown to promote drainage and relief. Sinuses are located on either side of the chin, just above the eyes, on the sides of the nose just before the cheekbones, and at the peaks of the eyebrows. Apply light pressure there with your thumbs and move them to the sides to pull congestion away.

But just like a fancy dinner or a mani-pedi, it’s not quite as good as when someone does it for you.

“It’s sort of like tickling yourself. It’s never quite as effective because part of it is the relaxation,” she said. “Just the relaxation aspect alone is great for reducing tension, pain and stagnation, which are all involved in creating an environment for disease of the body, mind and soul.”

Warren Allergy and Asthma Care can be reached by calling (586) 268-9222 or by visiting www.warrenallergy.com.

Lori Sharp Massage Therapy can be reached by calling (248) 302-5796 or by visiting www.lorisharp.massagetherapy.com.