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How to Ward Off Stress Headaches and Neck Pain without Popping Pills!

Top 8 Tips to Ward Off Stress Headaches and Neck Pain without Popping Pills!

Tip # 1:

Postural Awareness---wherever we work or play we are faced with tasks that involve looking down. If you can avoid prolonged positions that keep your head forward or flexed down in front of the line of shoulders, you will reduce the amount of stress on those head/neck/shoulder muscles.  If you look at a computer, make sure the screen is at eye level and you are sitting nice and straight, feet flat on the floor and hips and knees bent at 90 degrees.  Avoid holding a phone between your ear and shoulder. That side pinching creates a contraction of the upper trapezius muscles that run up to the base of your head, as well as creating stress on the vertebrae.  Using a headset for prolonged conversation is best or hold your phone up to your ear. 

When lying in bed, do not pile two or more pillow behind your head. If you do, it will pitch your neck into severe flexion which is super bad for your neck.  The same position applies to lying on a couch with your head propped up on the arm rest. Avoid this and you will eliminate a great deal of neck stress.  


Tip # 2:

Take a look at your bed pillow---Many people do not realize that your bed pillow is really only to support the curvature of the back of your neck and fill the empty space between your ear and shoulder.  A pillow should not be so big that it flexes or tilts your neck up. If your pillow is super fat then it could be causing some pain in your neck. 


Tip # 3:

Heat or ice? ---Unless you were in a severe accident you really can’t do wrong trying either. Moist heating pad or frozen vegetables will work just fine.  Most importantly, don’t sit with it laying across your neck, pushing your neck into flexion. Lie down flat on your back or sit in a recliner so that your head is sitting straight on top of your shoulders, with your ear aligned with your shoulder tip. 


Tip # 4:

Self-massage and release techniques---in a comfortable position with neck supported behind you in a recliner or lying on your back, use your hand to apply pressure on the upper trapezius trigger points (those tight bands that hurt when you press on them) and hold the pressure until you no longer feel pain, then wait about a minute or minute and a half longer.  You can also apply a light pull on your ears, gently pulling them back and out.  Hold for 30 seconds and repeat as needed.  Also, oddly enough, weave your fingers through the hair on the side of your head, then pull gently on the hair along the sides of your head also to reduce headache pain. 


Tip # 5:

Hydration/Nutrition---Too little water, too much caffeine, too much salt, way too little salt, not eating a balanced diet, and too much alcohol consumption without adding extra water intake, can all dramatically change your body’s ability to deal with emotional and physical stress.  8 glasses of water a day is a necessity and if you are consuming alcohol or caffeine then up that intake with one glass of water for every one of these drinks. 


Tip # 6:

Is your vision going bad? ---Take a look at one of those drugstores reading glass kiosks and do a quick check to see if you need reading glasses or up the rating on the ones you have. Or even better…visit your eye doctor!  Straining your eyes to read or look at something with fine detail can be a source of headache pain.


Tip # 7:

Keep the stress level lower---It’s is easy enough to prescribe a stress-free life but near impossible to follow this order.  But consider simple strategies that may assist in reducing your stress throughout the day. For example, if you know calling a friend or family member may get you stressed out then skip it that day.  And if looking at Facebook tends to put you in a mood…then don’t!  Play softer music in the car…sit for 10 minutes (set a timer) and do nothing but drink a glass of water and look out the window…. sneak away into the bathroom at work, go in the stall and just take a few minutes to yourself…and lastly but most importantly….BREATHE!

Breathe through your nose, expanding all the way down to your stomach on the inhale and exhale through your mouth—do this in traffic at a light or while on the phone while having a stressful call or when the kids are pulling at you. Just stop and really BREATHE deep…it does wonders for your body!


Tip # 8:

Stop Chewing Gum and Teeth Grinding---You may not be aware if you are grinding your teeth at night. Any easy check is to bring it up to your dentist if you wake up with a tight jaw or headache.  If you chew gum, you are also overusing the muscles of your jaw, again creating too much stress in the muscles of your head. 


Bonus Tip…Try Physical Therapy!

When all else fails and you can’t relieve your neck pain. Consider a consultation with a physical therapist who will be able to pinpoint exactly why you are having headaches or neck pain and can then apply the correct manual therapy techniques to your body to relieve your pain, as well as educating you further in how you can help yourself and stay out of trouble.

If you are interested in learning more about Solutions to Headaches and Neck Pain, then reach out to BodyFit Physical Therapy by emailing cindy@bodyfitphysicaltherapy.com or calling Cindy at 860-507-7365 to schedule a FREE Discovery Visit-A Consultation with a Physical Therapist.