Chronic Pain, Posture, Wellness

Headache Hacks

With spring in full swing I’m hearing and seeing a lot of you complain about headaches. Just like everything else regarding pain and dysfunction in our society- headaches are something that we’ve come to normalize.

Not only do I hear routine complaints about headaches and migraines- I’ve also had people get defensive as if it’s a negative thing that I”m telling them headaches are often very relievable.

I get it. Whenever someone who has been in pain for years, especially suffering from something like a migraine, is told that that suffering isn’t necessary- it seems like their pain is being minimized. Humans don’t love when they feel that way.

However- I’m going to say this again and again… pain of any kind, even something as normalized as a headache, IS NOT NORMAL nor is there any need for it to be a routine part of your life!

Here are some of the “hacks” I hand out for clients dealing with headaches.

Hydrate

Our lymphatic system holds about 15L of fluid (YEP), and our circulatory system is another 6L of fluid.. our entire body relies on so much water to stay functioning and healthy.

Most people who walk in our doors at Integrative Movement are drinking under 4 glasses of water a day. That fact along makes many of their complaints make sense. Muscle pain, joint pain, chronic pain, headaches, energy troubles…. if we aren’t lubricating our body how can we blame it for complaining?

A optimally functioning adult should be drinking 2-3L of water/day at a minimum. If you have pain, headaches, or other stuff going on… check in with your hydration.

Breathing

Yes, that thing I talk about so much… that we all do. Another basic life process that is highly underrated when it comes to how we function.

Let’s pause on the word “function” for a hot minute. Unfortunately, these days, “normal function” is another term for “not very functional”. Everyday people are constantly in some sort of discomfort or dysfunction when it comes to their health (which includes mind, body, and emotions).

I’ve written and spoke about breathing a lot. The nitty gritty is that if we are breathing in correctly (aka using large postural muscles in our upper body) we will see an increase in tension around the neck and fascial changes in the body perpetuating tension. Tension around the neck leads to trigger points being activated and headaches all over the place. Think “tension” headaches at the base of the skull, forehead, and behind the eyes. Often migraine symptoms are caused by this as well- auras, trouble focusing, nausea, pain in standing or moving positions, dizziness.

Migraines can be classified in a few ways, one of them being ischemic (code for restricted circulation).. meaning something is causing a decrease in circulation to the brain or soft tissue around the skull. One of these causes can and often is connective and soft tissue tension in the upper body closing in on arteries and lymphatic vessels in the area.

Working on breathing mechanism and the “simple” act of taking some time to lay on your back or stomach with your head resting in your palms and doing some deep diaphragmatic breathing can make a GINORMOUS difference in symptoms of headaches and migraines.

Check this post and podcast out on the hows of breathing…

https://anchor.fm/kathlyn-mary-hossack/embed/episodes/Apr-6–2018-e19orh/a-a2ve4i

MOVEMENT (duh)

I mean, this isn’t news.. right?

None of us move enough and even those who do move enough don’t get enough variety in their movements.

Repetitive movements will just perpetuate the issues listed above. You get 10,000 steps in? Awesome… but how much did you bend over, twist, roll around, squat, wiggle your toes, etc?

Movement helps circulate lymphatic fluid which is a huge factor in inflammation and pain (if it isn’t moved around). Movement also increases circulation to those tense muscles and helps to relieve undue tension.

This post by Dr. Perry Nicholson sums it up some excellent ideas for adding variety in.

Pain in movement?! Pain will stop you from moving.. and that is not okay. Find a professional who knows how to get you moving painfree again…

Nutrition (also kinda duh?)

Nobody knows what is going on with healthy eating anymore. Why? Because everywhere you turn there is a new diet fad. Run away from anything telling you its the new best way to get healthy. Whether it does have benefits or not isn’t the issue… the issue is that health shouldn’t need anything more then common sense to figure out.

We are designed to eat a variable diet of whole foods. Does that mean there isn’t a place for certain styles of eating? Nope.. actually certain ways of eating can be very beneficial to help alleviate symptoms of many complaints. Including headaches and body pain.. as both these can connect back into general inflammation somewhere in the system. That’s where finding the help of someone who understands health as a whole and using food as medicine can be hugely beneficial.

I recommend looking into different options of Registered Dieticians, Holistic Nutritionists, or Functional Medicine practitioners and do your own research. Try things. Experiment with the types of foods you eat, and don’t be afraid of experimenting. As questions of yourself and others. We are ever-changing creatures and no diet should be a forever solution.

Take homes?

Headaches OFTEN come from neck tension, postural dysfunction, lack of hydration, and sometimes inflammatory conditions in other ares of the body causing a chain effect.

Don’t get stuck in a negative pain loop around your pain/headaches. Never stop looking for a solution. Do stop sourcing quick fixes. Believe that there are ways to break the pain cycle- there always is!