Easy solutions for headaches
Headaches: the bane of many of our lives. Headaches affect nearly all people at some stage within their lifetime, with some sources stating that about 15 per cent of the population is taking some sort of pain relief for a headache at any given time. Headaches decrease your work productivity, reduce your ability to exercise and worsen your mood. I once treated a young mother who told me that the most awful thing she has ever suffered through was caring for a colicky 12-week-old while in the midst of a migraine!
I love treating headaches, they’re my bag. I love that, most of the time, something so debilitating can show such great results in treatment in a relatively short time.
Headaches can be caused by many things, such as poor posture, stress, jaw or dental problems, high blood pressure or tumours.
Thankfully, the vast majority of headaches are caused by relatively benign conditions, such as tight neck muscles due to poor posture or stress leading to teeth grinding.
I once treated a young mother who told me that the most awful thing she has ever suffered through was caring for a colicky 12-week-old while in the midst of a migraine!
First and foremost, if you have ongoing headaches that have no obvious explanation, please consult your GP or osteopath to determine the cause. Certain conditions causative of headaches, such as high blood pressure, are common within the community and do need medical management.
For those who suffer from tension- or neck-related headaches, the following self-management strategies may help.
Heat wheat packs are worth their weight in gold. Place one of these babies over the tops of your shoulders, across base of your neck, for about 15-20 minutes. Most of my patients will pop a heat pack on and settle into their favourite chair with a good TV show. I’ve heard that an episode of How I Met Your Mother lasts about as long as the heat from one of these does!
Are you reading this whilst at your desk? Are you slouched forward, bent at your mid back, with shoulders rounded and chin jutting forward? Such a posture places strain on the upper joints of the neck, and pulls on the muscles around the tops of shoulders and up the sides of the neck. This can cause irritation and inflammation, which may lead to referred pain into the head. Fix this with a few shoulder rolls, a couple of shoulder blade squeezes and a few deep, belly breaths. Speak with your osteopath if you’re unsure of how to do these exercises.
If you’re stressed, you might be grinding your teeth, which can cause a headache. This tightens up the muscles around your cheeks and on your temples. You can massage these muscles using your index and middle fingers, using small circular movements and medium pressure (don’t make it hurt!). Massage for about 2-3 minutes over the cheek, and then on the fleshy part of your temple, paying particular attention to any sore spots.
If you just can’t put your finger on what’s causing your headaches, you can download this handy little headache diary, which helps to identify any triggers. Log the diary for a week of two, then pop in to your osteopath or GP for a thorough analysis (and therefore, treatment plan) of your headaches.
I hope this helps with your management of this particularly annoying condition.
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