Tips And Tricks To Get Rid Of Headaches; And Learn What Can Be Causing Your Headaches
Headaches can be from a number of causes and some of these causes can be quite simple to fix. These are some of the questions that I discuss with my patients who have headaches before we begin treatment. Each of these can play a part in having headaches and need to be addressed before any therapy treatment program can be effective.
- Take a look at your diet:
If your diet is high in carbohydrates and salt you may find an increase in headaches. Try adjusting your diet by balancing your diet appropriately with protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Consult with a dietician if you are not sure how to proceed. Try this option for a week and see if you notice that your headaches are reduced or gone.
- How much water are you drinking?
We tend to not drink enough water. Some medical sources advise drinking ½ your body weight in ounces of water. So, if you are 150 lbs. then you would drink 75 ounces per day. Many times, people will be in a constant state of dehydration which can negatively affect the skin, muscle and basic function of your body, including the overall level of tension in your head. In addition, the drinking of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and soda, only further dehydrate you due to the diuretic affect of the caffeine. This will only send you further into dehydration. Try drinking more water for a week and see if this offsets your headaches.
- What is your overall stress and tension level?
If you are constantly in high stress situations, you may want to find an outlet for when you can relax. Exercise, meditation, or just sitting quietly and breathing deeply for 10 minutes may just do the trick. Find any outlet that gives you some “time-out” even if it is 5 minutes!
- Do you need glasses?
As we age, we will tend to lose some of our vision, causing squinting or a change in posture to help us move in a way to help us see better. Squinting tenses the muscles around the eyes and forehead which can lead to constant tension in these muscles and therefore headaches. If you are leaning forward to see a computer screen, see #5 for tips on desk ergonomics.
- Is your work set-up ergonomically correct?
Forward head posture, rounded shoulders, and a hunched over upper back can lead to tension in the muscles from your forehead to your shoulder tips and down your mid-back. Making sure you are sitting up straight, your computer monitor is at eye level and your mouse/keyboard is closer to the side of your body, can all help keep you in alignment which offsets the overuse of these muscles. When these muscles are constantly on tension, that tension travels back up into and around your head causing headaches.
Fluctuation in hormone levels can cause headaches in some people. By using a tracking sheet, you can see if your headaches are patterned with certain times of the month (for women). See # for Tracking Your Headaches.
- Check Your Pillow:
Do you wake up with headaches? Do you sleep with an extra thick pillow? Is your head propped up too high causing too much flexion of your neck? A pillow should just fill the negative space (open space) between the curve of your neck and the mattress when lying on your back. When lying on your side, it should fill the space between your ear and your shoulder. Any more than that and you may be stressing your spine which can cause headaches.
- Do You Constantly Look At Your Phone or Tablet Hunched Over?
If you are constantly on a device then you likely are spending way too much time hunched over with your neck flexed, shoulders rounded and back hunched over. As we discussed in the ergonomic section #5, this can cause extreme tension in your spine and muscles surrounding the head…which can cause you headaches.
- Do You Clench Your Teeth At Night or During The Day?
TMJ=Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction on a very basic level is irritation of the joint which we call our jaw. Constant tensing and clenching of the muscles surrounding the jaw will lead to tightness around the jaw, ears, and the side muscles of your head, and therefore lead to headaches. Ask your significant other if they hear you grinding at night. Or see if when you are under stress if you tend to clench your jaw. You can also check with your dentist to see if they notice a wear pattern in your teeth that may signify clenching.
How to Track Headaches and Tips to Ease Them:
For starters, in order to solve the mystery of why you are having headaches, ask yourself all of the questions above.
Then start tracking, on a headache chart, when the headaches begin and/or are at their peak. This can help you determine what may be triggering your headaches. Track the date and time, what you were doing when you felt the headache, and what intensity was it on a scale of 0-10 (10 being the worst). This information can assist you in determining why they are coming on. This information will also be very helpful if you do need to seek medical attention in the form of an MD, Physical Therapist, or Chiropractor.
Once you have reviewed those questions above, then you can try some exercises to relieve headaches, such as those that I had provided in my last video. (See my Facebook Feed for Posting/Video on Headaches) These exercises address headaches that may be caused by poor posture, stress and muscular tension. As stated previously, tightness in the muscles of your neck and shoulders can cause tension all the way around the back of your head to your forehead, and therefore this tension can also develop tightening of the skin, fascia, and muscles that surround the head.
Ear Pulls and Hair Pulling, as described in the video, can lift the layers of the soft tissue, creating a stretch, and lessening of the tension felt around your head. These “pulls” can be held for 10-20 seconds, while closing the eyes and taking deep breaths, focusing on making sure your breath expands your lower lungs. Repeat 5 times, and repeat several times a day.
The tennis-ball exercise/peanut balls, are placed at the base of the head where it connects with the upper neck. At that region, muscle groups coming from the shoulders and neck insert and muscle groups from the head insert. This area is a high region of muscle tension. By placing the peanut balls under this area, you create a depression or stretch in the muscles, relieving tension and potentially relieving headaches.
Please note: These are not all of what you can do to help alleviate headaches with exercise. There are more but these are a very gentle first step. These are not elaborate, sexy, new, and over-the-top magical exercises; they are simple for a reason. The simpler the exercise, the easier to do and if they are easier to do then you are more likely to do them!
Try them consistently for a week, several times per day, and see how you feel.
For more information about posture and exercise for better alignment, go to my YouTube page under BodyFiT Physical Therapy and then click on Subscribe.
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