No one is okay having headaches and at some point, you get tired of taking medicine every time you get one, not to mention the damage it does to your body. In this blog, you will learn:
- What the most common types of headaches are
- How a migraine is still a headache and can be accompanied by this!
- Who you should see to treat headaches
- Ergonomic fixes for fewer headaches and
- Best exercises to address the cause of your headache
The Most Common Types of Headaches
There are different causes of headaches and therefore different types, but the most common is called cervicogenic headache which means it comes from the neck. This is also commonly referred to as suboccipital, tension, or stress headache.
While the neck is the main contributor to most headaches there are many other contributing factors such as:
- Bad Ergonomics
- Bad Posture
- Too much screen time
How Do I Get Rid of the Tension in My Neck?
So, why would your neck be the source of your headaches? Thanks to our rising use of digital devices, as a society, we have a drastic increase of bad posture from poor ergonomics and too much screen time resulting in neck pain, back pain, and headaches even in children as young as elementary school-age!!
When you’re sitting too much and staring at a monitor for too long a few things happen; first this sedentary activity provides a negative neuroplasticity, which means your brain doesn’t like it and the parts of your brain that send the command for an upright posture become less and less active. The nice thing is that through postural neurology, this can be reversed.
The end result of prolonged sitting is a forward head posture which over time results in the muscles of the back of the neck being overly stretched and the front of the neck muscles get shorter than they need to be. This created imbalance will be the source of ongoing tension and fight between the front and back of the neck causing tension thus the tension headache.
If you’re a woman, you have to be even more aware and careful with your posture and how it contributes to headaches because of a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin is a hormone that was once believed to only be present in pregnant women because it relaxes the ligaments in preparation for childbirth, but it is also found in women who are ovulating or menstruating. This hormone contributes to headaches by relaxing the ligaments of the head and neck allowing for more stretch, but if you already have a forward head posture this can result in even more tension of the musculature resulting in a headache.
Headaches and Nutrition
If you know you get headaches, make sure you stay hydrated and try drinking some water before you’re tempted to take medication. I would also suggest avoiding caffeine, wine, artificial sweeteners, and any foods that are genetically modified if you know you’re prone to getting headaches.
Headaches vs Migraines?
Sometimes headaches are so strong that people use the term Migraine to describe them and use the term as if it is different from headaches! The term migraine is used very loosely. Frankly, when the intensity of pain is high, it is common to get the most common type of headaches, tension or stress headache, in addition to your Migraine headache.
Who Treats Headaches?
According to ACA, Chiropractors are about 72 to 90 percent effective at reducing the frequency of primary head pain, headaches, and migraines which is fantastic but how about the rest? What do they need to do and is it because we are missing something else?
Research shows that chiropractic adjustments create many changes in the body including activating the nervous system, your problem-solving system. Given that your nervous system has to problem-solve based on what you throw at it, Ergonomics, Functional Movement, and Postural Neurology are necessary in the treatment of headaches and any musculoskeletal condition and perhaps the reason why we have 72-90% and not 100%.
Want Less Headaches? Fix Your Ergonomics
We’ve talked about the negative neuroplasticity that comes with sitting using digital devices for extended hours and how that impacts your brain’s blueprint of movement and posture in the section above. Ergonomics is a big player in your headaches.
First things first, stop sitting on a chair and get an exercise ball instead! A minimum 95 cm in diameter ball to be exact!
The instability of sitting on an exercise ball activates the part of your brain that sends the command for your body to be upright against gravity. Even with sitting on an exercise ball, you still want to make sure that you are getting up at least every 55 minutes, and a sit-to-stand desk is best so that you are changing position and providing your brain with the variety it wants.
The next thing you need to do immediately is to bring your monitor up to your eye level. You can buy a stand, use old textbooks like I do, or anything else that works for you. With the addition of the ball and monitor level change, everything else may require some shifting around to make sure we aren’t contributing to other issues. I suggest you use this Ergonomic Checklist to make those adjustments and if you use a laptop, which I’m totally against, then you need to get a bluetooth keyboard and mouse!
Position yourself to be in front of the letter key part of your keyboard (vs the whole keyboard) and get a keyboard that is about the length of your shoulder width. This means your elbows won’t be pressed against your body which contributes to a forward head and rolled-forward shoulders posture.
Put your mouse on a clipboard and over your lap if you can. Yes, you read it correctly; if you mouse a lot, that over activates certain muscles in your neck and shoulder that lead to tension headaches.
Exercises to Relieve Headaches and Correct the Posture
Everything we have covered so far in this blog addresses the feeders of the problem and the symptoms, but what has resulted is an imbalance of the neck musculature, shoulder musculature, and more importantly, how the brain sees these parts of your body and how they function.
If all babies, despite the differences we all have, go through the same developmental stages of movement then that must be how our software for movement is written. If movement is a concert, your brain is the conductor, the blueprint of movement is the musical note and the body parts are the musicians who not only need to know their part but to know when to chime in and when to phase out.
Through Postural Neurology, we can see what parts of the blueprint with regards to movement and balance are below par and it is because of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) that we can see how the ‘musicians’ are playing their part in all.
What is done in the video below, is to determine if the patient has eye dominance which is actually a disadvantage when it comes to the posture and balance. It can create an imbalance in the muscles of the neck causing headaches.
And the exercise below is what a 3-month-old baby does during ‘tummy time’ to strengthen the back of the neck muscles and connect the function of the elbows to the shoulder blades and neck. Back to the concert example, while the spotlight may be on the pianist, the background music still goes on. While the spotlight is on the neck muscles in the exercise below, the background musicians nearby are the elbows, shoulder blades, and neck.
This is a challenging position for many adults I see in my clinic because their trapezius muscles do most of the ‘playing’ when they need to be quiet.
The exercise above is how we reestablish that connection between the brain and body so that once the headaches and associated neck issues and treated, they don’t return and your relief is longer lasting. My Youtube channel has hundreds of videos for the DIYers so next time you reach for that bottle of medicine, think about what you learned her, and if you need help contact the office.