It’s all a bit of a headache
But it doesn’t have to be
Based on what we see in clinic, headaches seem to be on the increase. It’s perhaps no surprise given our ever increasingly stressful lives, sedentary lifestyles and use of electronics.
There are several different types of headache and some of these – such as migraines – are stand-alone headaches. Others though, are often influenced by external factors such as lack of movement and stiffness, office lighting, dehydration, use of mobile devices, stress…the list goes on.
Headaches resulting from a whiplash injury are caused by issues associated with the muscles and joints of the upper back and neck. Other headaches seem to be secondary to problems in the body such as chronic shoulder and neck pain.
But the good news is that whatever the reason for your headache, if it is being caused or affected by issues in the neck and upper back, then there’s a lot that can be done.
So, what can you do about it?
Start by sitting down with a pen and paper (and some peace and quiet if possible) and have a think about your lifestyle and what things might be causing your headaches. This can encompass all aspects of your life from not getting a good night’s sleep to having to use your laptop or phone on the train to keep up with work emails. I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list here of all the potential issues of daily living that can cause or contribute to headaches because it’s better to do this exercise with an open mind.
Having written your list, can you identify some quick wins? Are there any factors that you can easily change? New pillows? A regular walk. Less caffeine? Change your routine to include some of these and then, in a few weeks, if your headaches continue, come back to the list and see if you can address the remaining factors.
Now focus on a little routine
A bit of focused exercise and stretching can work wonders for releasing tensions causing or influencing headaches. A general loosening of the shoulders, upper back and neck is a great place to start so try this routine:
- 3 deep breaths in and out. Try and breathe out for slightly longer than you breathe in.
- Roll the shoulders. 5 rolls forwards and 5 backwards. Then repeat.
- Squeeze and release the shoulder blades a few times.
- Slowly drop the head to the left and the right a few times. Don’t hold the stretch, just slowly repeat it trying to feel for where any tensions are in the neck muscles.
- Slowly drop the chin into the neck (as if you wanted to make a double chin). Again, don’t hold it. Just slowly repeat that stretch a few times.
- Finish off with another 3 deep, slow breaths in and out.
Still need help?
If you’re worried about your headaches then, if the headache is being caused or influenced by problems with muscles and joints or stiffness and tension (whether this is due to accident, injury or just the demands of life) then there’s a lot that we can do to help.
A step in the right direction
The first step is obviously to diagnose the cause or causes of your headache. A thorough assessment of your back and neck, and treatment to ease and release these tensions and strains is often very successful in treating headaches. Often this will involve work to improve the mobility of your upper back and neck and treatment of the tensions held in the muscles of the neck.
We will also be able to look at external factors – diet, what you drink, how you sleep, exercise, work etc. – that may be affecting things and advise you on how to resolve or improve them.
Don’t suffer in silence
It’s all too easy to get caught in the trap of taking painkillers, accepting headaches as a fact of life or just never quite getting around to making that appointment for treatment. But by doing so, you may well be suffering unnecessarily.