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Unfurrow your Brow: The Corrugator Supercili Muscle, Fasical Expression and Headaches

Do you smell what the stress is cooking? (Raises eyebrow a la Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). It may be causing you to furrow your brow. That little crinkle in the middle of your forehead may be causing you some headache pain. While sitting in traffic or staring at a spreadsheet we may not notice that we are doing it, but the small little muscle in between our eye brows can cause some significant pain.

In 2000, a group of plastic surgeons observed the effects of removing the corrugator supercilli muscle. Of the 39 subjects who reported headaches, 30 of them (79%) reported a significant improvement or elimination of headache symptoms all together.

The corrugator muscle is a tiny little muscle toward the inside portion of your eyebrow, and it draws your eyebrows together and is a valuable muscle of facial expression, but can also be a good treatment target for headache sufferers.

There may be a less mechanical explanation of the relationship between a furrowed brow and headaches, and that is an emotional link. Across my years of study and practice, I have seen more research emerge linking stress and mood to pain. The emotion that causes you to furrow your brow may be just as responsible for headaches, as your muscle tension. Treatment outcomes, however, may be the same.

Paying attention to one’s facial expression, and relaxing your facial muscles may be helpful. I always tend to notice my facial muscles tensing up when I have to drive during rush hour. I have also noticed that relaxing these muscles will often help me to feel better and relax my neck and shoulder muscles with ease.

Headaches are complex, often there are many factors that cause, and relieve headaches. This article helps to shed some light one potential cause, and can guide patients and practitioners towards new treatment options that may improve one’s quality of life. If you have questions about sources of headaches and treatment options, book in with one of our practitioners to learn more.

Guyuron, B., Varghai, A., Michelow, B. J., Thomas, T., & Davis, J. (2000). Corrugator supercilii muscle resection and migraine headaches. Plastic and reconstructive surgery, 106(2), 429-434.


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