Headache Relief Without Medication ⇒ Headaches can come from many different sources. Some things that influence headaches are: dietary contributions, stress and anxiety leading to tension, and musculoskeletal issues.
Cervicogenic (cervical instability or stiffness): usually pertains to the upper cervical region
Thoracic (upper back) stiffness
Myofascial (tissue) restrictions
Psychosocial and Stress leading to tension-holding habits
The list below looks at sources of irritation, inflammation and tension to the muscles around the neck. This tension can impinge on the nerves that come from the cervical spine and travel up to the scalp, temples, and around the eyes.
Car accidents: In my experience, patients usually had a tendency towards the stiffness/instability in the cervicothoracic region prior to the accident. It just took the accident to set things into motion a bit quicker.Trending
Other injuries (sports, work, etc)
Posture: Explore the way that you stand/sit or perform your hobbies and recreation
Daily habits/activities: Again, explore the posture and myofascial use during hobbies, recreation and daily living
Psychosocial: what is going on in your life that may affect the way that you hold yourself and the way that you breath
Breathing patterns: are you a shallow breather, a chest breather or an abdominal breather (their is a time and place for each).
Posture: Have a physical therapist or other professional assess your posture. Please see this handout for “Good Posture” by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA); You can also check out my patient handout on how to dial in your Standing/Seated Tadasana (Mountain Pose) for more mindful posture throughout the day.
Breath: If you don’t know how you are breathing, having a physical therapist or yoga therapist assess this. Using a thoracic breath, or more of a chest breath, you risk tightening up the secondary muscles of respiration, such as scalenes, sternocleidomastoid and pectorals. When you use an abdominal breath you utilize the the larger most-intended muscle for breath, the diaphragm. You can slow the breath and focusing on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic system. The latter is calming, lowering respiration and heart rate, decreasing blood pressure, lowering cortisol levels, and increasing blood flow to the intestines and vital organs (Woodyard 2011). The practice of controlled breath acts to down-regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration (Sengupta 2012). See my link to a handout on Abdominal Breathing for tips on how to perform yourself. Or try this Alternate Nostril Breath to calm the nervous system and ease tension.
Massage/Myofascial Release: Find a physical therapist or massage therapist that you trust for specifically guided soft tissue work on the neck and surrounding structures. Foam Rollers and small pliable balls are a great way to self-massage your upper back, neck, and pectorals. Try these self-release neck stretches that may relieve headache-causing tension. I also recommend trying CFH pain Relief Cream topical analgesic for headache relief. Place a small amount on your fingers and rub it into the base of the scalp/skull. You can place a little at the temples but only a little as it can cause stinging if too close to the eyes. I have used this numerous times for headache relief.
Habits/Lifestyle: Address your postural habits throughout the day. The workplace/home computer is often the first place to look. Please see the link by the APTA addressing “Neck Pain,“ for ideas. Also see my handout on a proper desk set-up. But as I always say, you can have the thousand dollar set up and still sit with your body slumped. So, it takes mindfulness to recognize how you are holding yourself throughout the day. “Mindfulness is easy, you just have to remember to do it.”
Food as Medicine: Assess food allergies or inflammatory items in your diet. Please see my blog on “Chronic Inflammation,” to see how inflammation can alter our body’s responses. Also, Dr Mark Hyman, a Functional Medicine MD also talks about elements of this in his Blog Post. Edited 11/12/13: Please also find my handout for Ayurvedic methods of relief.
Video showing the top 5 things I do when I have a headache that seems to be coming from my neck and/or jaw
I welcome any comments and hope that if you find this information helpful that you will pass it on to your colleagues and your friends. Contact Tianna to see how she can help you find relief from your headaches.
Join me to begin to Shift Your Pain
- Kiecolt-Glaser, J. (2010). Stress, food, and inflammation: Psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition at the cutting edge. Psychosom Med, 72(4), 365–369. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181dbf489.
- Sengupta, P. (2012). Health impacts of yoga and pranayama: A state-of-the-art review. Int J Prev Med, 3(7), 444–458.
- Woodyard, C (2011). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. Int J Yoga, 4(2), 49-54. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.85485.
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