What to do About Headaches
Let’s talk about headaches. Ranging from a mid-afternoon head pounding ache, to agonizing pain. They leave you sensitive to light and sometimes feeling sick. Headaches are something most, if not all of us, have experienced at some point in our life. For some, headaches are a bigger problem and can even affect everyday life, just like Lauren who is a patient of mine. Here’s what she wrote in an email to me before she came to see us:
“Hi Jennifer, I’m 56 and have been suffering from migraines ever since I was a teenager. I’ve never been able to get to the root of the problem. I don’t know if this is true, but I heard that tension in your shoulders can bring headaches on? I thought you’d be the best person to ask. Is this right or am I being silly? Do I get headaches because of something I eat? I’m tired of getting migraines when I least expect them! It’s awful when they strike in the middle of shopping.” – Lauren, 56, Olympia, WA.
Jennifer Penrose. Photo courtesy: Penrose & Associates Physical Therap
Here’s what’s happening…
Let me tell you now, Lauren certainly was right about tension in your neck and shoulders being related to this common problem! And I can imagine you would have found it hard to believe me if I told you that 87 percent of headaches come from tight and tense muscles in your shoulders and neck.
But instead the culprit is often tension that you never even knew existed in your neck in the first place. Mainly because you’re just so used to it, or because you just brush it to the side thinking a “stiff neck” just comes as part of the package of getting older. But if I asked you – if you ever find yourself resting your head in an awkward position whilst you’re watching TV, if you ever lean your head forward when you read, or even stick your neck forward when using your phone or computer, I can bet you answer ‘yes’.
All of those things can cause muscles in your neck to become tired, which means one thing – lots of tension! Which is exactly what was going on with my patient Lauren. For years Lauren was working an office job where she spent hours each day leaning her neck forward looking at a computer screen – no wonder why when we helped ease her neck tension, her migraines became less and less of a regular occurrence!So What Can Be Done?
Photo courtesy: Penrose & Associates Physical TherapyFor stress and decreasing tension try doing some relaxing activities in the afternoon and evening. Deep breathing, stretching, warm bath, a nice walk, gentle yoga and things that make you smile and relax. At Penrose PT we have a Yoga posture class and if you have not attended yet and you mention this article you can come for 1/2 off your first session! This class is for anyone feeling stiff, poor posture, with plenty of modifications given and our very small class size allows for lots of feedback and corrections. We modify positions to be safe for spine arthritis, osteoporosis, and degenerative discs.
1. Be aware of the position of your neck – if you notice that your neck is pushed forwards, tuck your chin in towards your neck to help straighten it and put it back into the right position. Watch how your head and neck is positioned when you read, use your device or laptop.
2. Relax in a warm bath – muscles love to be warm and warm muscles means less tension. So run yourself a nice warm bath, lay back and relax.