Headaches can be extremely frustrating and debilitating. There's actually a lot that you can do to make them feel better. I want to teach you a little bit about them and then give you some tips on how to manage them.
Headaches can be broken into a few different categories. The first category is migraines. Often people use the term migraine to describe a really bad headache, but in reality, a true migraine is a different kind of headache that actually has a vascular component, which basically means that there's an abnormal functioning of the blood vessels to the brain. It causes this throbbing, quite intense headache and is episodic. It's usually associated with some light and sound sensitivity as well. Often, migraines need some kind of pharmacological management, and a chat with your GP about them is usually a good idea.
The second type of headache that I want to talk about is the tension type headache. I think a lot of people are fully aware of how stress and tension in their body tends to manifest in their head. That usually presents as a headache where you're getting pain on both sides of your head. Really, the best way to deal with those kind of headaches is stress management and looking at what in your life is not making you calm, and winding up your central nervous system. You can look back at some of the meditation videos that Sam and San have made in the past to give you some tips on that. Otherwise, just thinking about other stress management techniques can be really helpful, so whether it's exercising, whether it's listening to music before bed, whatever it is you need to do to wind down your central nervous system and deal with the stress that's producing those tension type headaches.
The third type of headache, and probably the most common is something called a cervicogenic headache, which is a headache that's referred from tension in your neck muscles and the neck joints. There's a few things that really tend to set these off. I know we nag you all the time about posture but that really is the biggest culprit for these types of headaches. I'll just give you a couple of examples why.
Because of our current day and age and our reliance on technology, we're spending way too much time on our phones with our heads poking forward like a turtle or at your desk slumped over a laptop (guilty), and basically what that does is it compresses the joints in the top of your neck. That ends up referring to your head and causing all sorts of different patterns around your head. Basically, it's really easy to fix that. Again, you can refer to some of our blogs that we've written or videoed about ergonomic setup and looking at desk setup, just to try and make the environment that you spend most of your time in at work as comfortable as possible, so that your neck gets a bit of a break.
The other big contributor to that is just poor control of the neck muscles. The muscles that get really tight are the ones in the front of your neck and also the ones at the base of your skull. They'll get too tight, again from poor postures and stress can also contribute to that, but the biggest thing you need to do is you need to wake up the deep muscles in the front of your neck that stabilize your neck. They're called your deep neck flexors. I kind of like to think about them as the core of your neck. There's a couple of exercises you can do to get those muscles working. Classically, it's been taught as a really big retraction exercise where you're producing a double chin, but actually that will reinforce that overactivity of those superficial muscles. We're trying to work on deep muscles that work more subtly.
The exercise we like to give is basically putting the back of your head on the wall. You are trying to open up the base of your neck by lengthening your neck, and lifting the top of your head upwards just to tuck your chin in. You gently just do a chin tuck. You're not making a massive double chin but you're just trying to lengthen the top of your neck to wake up those muscles that just bring your chin down and out of that forward, poked neck posture. If you do have a headache, just give that a go. Just gently take it into that position. Try and hold it for a few seconds and then relax. You can repeat that a few times and see if that helps with your headache off.
If you have any more questions, or you want to pop in for an assessment or have tried this and just want some headache symptom relief! please feel free to pop in, and we'll look after you :)