Chronic Headaches

by HomeTownPT, February 11, 2014

Are you one of those who suffer from frequent headaches?  Do your headaches occur seasonally?  Do you get your headaches after a long day of work with stress and/or staring at a computer screen all day long?  If you answered YES to any of these questions, then keep on reading for some helpful tips on how to ward away those ever annoying headaches!

After suffering from headaches time after time again, you just want answers to those questions of what is wrong with you and how you can get some relief.  If you keep reading on, we hope to give you the answers to those questions.

1. What is wrong with me?

First of all pain is a normal and necessary survival strategy to living.  It protects, educates, and lets us know that we are living.  We all have what’s referred to as an “alarm system” that helps notify when something is just not right about ourselves.  Yes, pain can be frustrating and at times unbearable, but appreciate that your body is letting you know that something needs to be addressed.

There are three different categories headaches fall under.

Tension Type Headaches-These headaches are increased muscular tension in the muscles of the head/neck. Potential causes for these headaches may include poor posture, muscular fatigue/injury, depression/anxiety, sleep apnea, and missed meals.  So if you are one to be hunched over at a computer desk all day, there is a great chance your headaches are tension type headaches. Read further to find out how to correct poor posture!

Cervicogenic Headaches- These headaches are associated with neck pain or stiffness, it radiates from base of head to the front, and increased pain can occur with head movements.

Migraine Headaches- In very simple terms a migraine headache is a chemical and vascular problem.  Migraine sufferers often describe intense pain, nausea, vomiting, and visual auras.  These headaches often do not respond to your typical headache treatments, e.g. ibuprofen.  Some people who suffer from migraine headaches may find the trigger that sets them off is actually a mechanical problem in their neck.

2. So, what can a physical therapist do for you?

Our physical therapist would be able to help you determine the type of headaches you are having and give you a specific exercise prescription based on your specific needs.  These exercises can help decrease your existing headaches and hopefully eliminate them for good.  Our PT’s also have training in “hands on” techniques.  If you would like some relief and knowledge of what your headaches are, call one of our clinics today!

3. Finally, what can you (the patient) do for your headaches?

Headaches usually occur from various triggers in our everyday life.  If we avoid those triggers, we should hopefully avoid those headaches.  So, what are some of the triggers and what can we do to prevent them?

  • Poor Posture: You don’t have to work up a sweat to build pressure in the head and neck muscles. Slouching at your desk will do the job, too. Common forms of poor posture include hunching your shoulders, using a chair with no lower-back support, staring at a monitor that is too low or too high, and cradling a phone between your ear and shoulder. If you have frequent tension headaches, take a good look at your work. Check out this cool video on proper posture while working!
  • Hair Accessories: How you wear your hair can take a toll on your head. A tight ponytail may strain the connective tissue in the scalp, leading to a hairdo headache. Headbands, braids, and tight-fitting hats can create the same effect. If this is the cause of your headache, letting your hair down usually brings fast relief.
  • Red Wine: Red wine, along with aged cheese, soy sauce, and cured meats, contain an amino acid called Tyramine, which can get into the blood stream and increase blood pressure, thereby causing a headache.  Because alcohol increases blood flow to the brain, the effects may be even more intense with red wine.
  • Skipping Meals: Hunger headaches aren’t always obvious.  If you skip a meal, your head could start to ache before you realize you’re hungry.  The trouble is a dip in blood sugar.  But don’t try to cure a hunger headache with a candy bar. Sweets cause blood sugar to spike and then drop even lower. Stay tuned below to see what foods help cure a headache!
  • Caffeine: For the headache-prone, caffeine fits firmly into the category of “can’t live with it, can’t live without it.” In moderation, caffeine is often beneficial–in fact, it’s found in many headache medications.  But chain-chugging coffee can be a cause of headaches.  And if you’re hooked on caffeine, cutting back abruptly may only make things worse.  Caffeine withdrawal is another headache trigger.  So again, caffeine is moderation!

So, now that we have listed some triggers, here are some solutions to nip those headaches in the bud!

  •  Manage Stress: Many people are able to manage migraines or tension headaches through stress-busting strategies. Although you can’t control the stressful events that come your way, you can alter your response to those events.
  • Stretch Your Legs: Moderate exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Walking is a great choice because it delivers an extra defense against tension headaches. When you walk, the swinging motion of your arms tends to relax the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Breaking up those knots may help diminish the root of some headaches.
  • Eat Regular Meals: Eating balanced meals throughout the day will help keep your blood sugar on an even keel. That means no more hunger headaches. Aim for meals and snacks that pair a protein with a complex carbohydrate, such as peanut butter on whole-grain bread or chicken breast with brown rice. And be sure to drink enough fluids — dehydration is another common headache trigger.
  • Food you eat: Along with the importance of having regular meals, so are the kinds of food you are eating.  There are certain types of foods that are geared towards preventing headaches. Foods loaded with magnesium and potassium can help, as well as spicy food if you are suffering from those sinus headaches. Click on this link to discover all of the delicious foods that help with headaches. 

Hoping this information helps you or someone you know who suffers from frequent headaches! Again if you want further advice, give us a call to have  one of our Physical Therapist’s help you out!