How 'Beckham tape' can help you beat headaches: More than 10 million of us suffer from the pain

The adhesive support positioned on Eloise's neck

The adhesive support positioned on Eloise's neck

Could something as simple as stretchy tape, applied to the back of the neck, really be an effective treatment for severe headaches According to the 2,000 or so British osteopaths advocating the technique, known as Kinesio taping, the answer is a resounding yes.

Elasticated tape has been used for decades to provide joint support to injured athletes, including David Beckham, who is often seen sporting the brightly coloured tape. Now experts believe using these adhesive support products can also reduce head pain – by repositioning muscles under stress and so relieving tension in the neck.

According to Headache UK, more than ten million Britons suffer from head pain. Migraine, the most severe headache, will affect about 25 per cent of women and up to 15 per cent of men.

Over-the-counter medication may provide short-term relief, though long-term reliance on painkillers can actually exacerbate health problems.

London-based osteopath Stephen Sacks, who charges 65 for a 30-minute Kinesio treatment, believes that the tape – used in conjunction with other treatments such as osteopathy and acupuncture – is highly beneficial on patients suffering from tension headaches.

‘About 60 per cent of my patients suffer from long-standing cervicogenic headaches, where tension originates in the vertebrae of the neck before ending up behind the eyes or back of the head,’ he says. ‘These tension headaches can be caused by anything from bad posture at a computer screen to responses to strong smells, food, sunlight or tooth pain.

‘Kinesio taping helps to reposition the head, improving posture and relieving tension.’

How to do it yourself

Before applying the tape, an
osteopath will press gently on a patient’s neck and shoulder muscles
until the sufferer can pinpoint which area is triggering the pain.

Misaligned joints in the spine, another
common cause of headaches, are also checked for by looking for
restricted movement in the neck. Most people suffering from a
cervicogenic headache can tell if they have this type, says Dr Sacks,
because they instinctively rub the back of the neck or head.

The tape is applied after osteopathic massage and acupuncture, which help to relax the muscles in the neck. Dr Sacks says: ‘I stretch the tape across the affected area to support the head and take pressure off the affected muscles, allowing them to heal. Six out of ten patients find this effective and often feel better before they leave my clinic – and certainly within a day.’

Dr Stephen Sacks treats Eloise Hanna

Dr Stephen Sacks treats Eloise Hanna

Kinesio taping, which stems from the science of Kinesiology, the study of human movement, was developed in Japan 30 years ago by Dr Kenzo Kase. The tape is made from elastic strand wrapped in cotton fibres, which makes it comfortable, breathable and waterproof.

Eloise Hanna, 28, was treated by Dr Sacks after suffering repeated, severe headaches. She says the treatment has transformed her life. ‘I work as a nanny, which entails bending, lifting and repetitive actions such as emptying the dishwasher,’ she says. ‘I’m constantly on my feet and lean forward when lifting or holding on to the children. This used to bring on severe headaches, which lasted most of the day and into the night, leaving me with no energy in the evenings.

‘I was surprised when Dr Sacks suggested Kinesio tape, but it had an immediate effect and now I rarely suffer – and when I do, they’re not nearly as bad. The treatment has transformed my life – my working day is far easier and I go out in the evenings.’

Dr Mark Weatherall, a consultant neurologist at Charing Cross Hospital, advises caution, however, saying: ‘I’m sure some people get a good response from the treatment, but the underlying causes of headaches are usually more complicated than simply misalignment of the neck or poor posture.’