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If you’re reading this I hope it is because you are just interested in learning more and not because you suffer from headaches; hopefully this blog can guide you through headache causes, treatment, and prevention. Headaches are very common these days, even in children! Why is that? If you find yourself asking questions like: why headaches occur, who treats headaches, what headaches mean, will headaches go away, what headaches in different places mean, and when to seek treatment for headaches, this blog is for you. 

Why Headaches Occur?

While there are many reasons such as dehydration that can lead to headaches, the most common type of headaches are tension or  Cervicogenic headache meaning the origin of the headache is the neck and its associated muscle tension. Lifestyle plays a huge role in tension headaches and the pillow you use is a good start. How you sleep allows the exhausted and overworked neck to rest, but are you sleeping correctly? Check this list to find out!

Essentially, tension headaches are due to the bad posture, leading to stress in the neck and the muscles in the back of the head. If you work behind a desk or use mobile devices frequently you may have what is called a forward head posture or tech neck. This means that the muscles that stabilize your head over your neck have become overstretched, exhausted and now your head sits in front of your body.

Almost all chronic tension headaches lead to jaw ‘malfunction’, either clicking or grinding, since the jaw bone connects to the skull and the tension at the back of the head shifts the positioning of the TMJ or temporomandibular joint.

Overactivation of the midbrain (Mesencephalon) as a result of exposure to too much light primarily from digital devices leads to headaches as well. This becomes evident with the Postural Neurology exam when I see a head tilt when the head should be straight. As a side note, head tilt, jaw pain and/or headaches go hand in hand!

It is one thing to address the work environment so the ergonomics are not negatively contributing to headaches, it is another thing to massage the neck muscles to relieve some of the tension, or getting chiropractic adjustments to help with the pain in the head. Physical therapy or rehab exercises to strengthen the neck muscles is certainly beneficial as well but why do the headaches come back? If the brain controls everything in the body, what if, the brain tells the body to do the right thing while we fix all the things that contributed to the headaches, to begin with?

Let me explain it to you this way: There is a map of your body parts in the brain called Homunculus. This map has to do with the movement and sensation and it is fine-tuned in infancy. It helps the brain to pay close attention to the movement and sensation because they are both crucial in the survival and safety of us as human beings. Homunculus becomes compromised as we don’t use the body parts correctly or don’t use them at all. Using Brain Based Neurology and Posture, we are able to check the status of this map when it comes to movement and sensation and based on the findings, exercise the weaker parts to ‘reinstate’ the map like it was supposed to be. These postural neurology exercises are not like going to a gym or doing a puzzle but they are specific to the actual movement and sensation and easy to perform. The key is to perform the correct exercise for the applicable weakness of the person.

In the video below, you see a patient practicing the part of her brain that needed to be worked out. Simple to do exercise as long as it is the right match for the right weakness!

Postural Neurology is the absolutely necessary piece that is missing in addressing headaches and the question to ask is where to find a clinic that addresses this missing piece?

Headaches, When to Seek Treatment

If you frequently experience headaches, I don’t need to tell you that they are not very enjoyable. Some may even be so painful you think you have a brain tumor. I am sure you can imagine how medication simply masks the problem and it is easy to up the dose or go to a more potent therefore more addictive medication and still have the headaches.

When should you seek treatment? Right away! It is easier to fix a problem sooner than later and before too much damage is done. Fixing the ‘damage’ takes longer and more costly as the problem is more chronic.

What Does Headache Treatment Look Like?

At any office, the musculature surrounding your neck should be addressed and of course, seeing any chiropractor, the adjustment will be apart of your treatment. Soft tissue work and adjustment are both important factors in treatment, but neither truly correct posture. If the posture is not corrected, the relief from these types of treatment will be short-lived. 

While adjustments help the spinal alignment, massage helps get rid of some of the tension, Functional Rehab techniques such as ART or Active Release Technique, up the game of massage and mobility at the same time, they don’t truly address the cause all the way to the source.

Developmental Kinesiology has applied the study of how we develop movement starting at just 3 months of age all the way through around 16 months when we start walking, to postural correction and rehab. We are all designed to move following a specific pattern of movement. Given injuries, one-sided sports training, and sedentary lifestyles, we have deviated from this natural pattern to what is termed pathological patterns of movement. 

Using exercises based on this concept, we can identify and address postural and functional movement deviations. This takes us away from the the traditional forms of stretching and strengthening muscles in isolation, because we never really function in isolation. The whole body is connected and our muscles should be working together, each one performing its own role through a movement. If movement was a concert, body parts are the musicians and working on a specific or few musicians to expect a concert to improve is not going to help when the musicians are not chiming in at the right time. Postural Neurology assures that the conductor (the brain) has the right notes in front of him/her and Developmental Kinesiology assures that the musicians not only know their musical instruments but know when to chime in or out.

The video below is just one of the many exercises we use to correct a forward head posture to prevent headaches.

One of my most favorite postural neurology exercises that I personally do and wished everyone on the planet who sits behind computers did is shown in the video below. This is also one of the at-home exercises I make sure my headache patients do religiously.

Headaches should never be taken lightly. They can sneak into the rest of your life and your relationship and have a toll on so many aspects of your life. If you truly want to get down to the root cause of your headaches and fix the issue rather than just treat the pain for now and worry about it ‘later’, then why delay the RIGHT treatment. If the ‘generic’ treatment worked, so many people would not suffer from it. We now see children with headaches and we can thank our lifestyle for it.

Remember that the problems in the head and neck don’t just stay in the head and neck area. They lead to tension in the mid back, pain between shoulder blades, clicking and pain in the shoulder(s), lower back issues (due to adaption of the body’s center of gravity, to accommodate the forward neck) and of course, all of this work its way down to the hip, knee and ankle joint(s). To learn more about the things you can do to prevent the premature deterioration of your health and wellbeing, I invite you to visit my  website and youtube channel to learn more about posture, and why you should take action to correct bad posture and prevent postural decline now.

Remember, you are the Designer and the Director of your own life so design and direct it the way you wish to see it. 

Dr. Shakib