3 Simple Exercises To Stop A Headache

Headaches are a problem that affect most of us at some point in our lives.

They can occur for many different reasons. Many times, headaches can be frequent and ongoing, affecting our ability to work, play, and generally enjoy life.

One common type of headache is called a cervicogenic headache. This is a pain perceived in the head that is actually coming from structures in the neck.

Smart phones, computers, long commutes, and overall stress contributes to spending much of our time in postures that increase stress and strain on neck and shoulder tissues. Cervicogenic headaches can result due to this poor position and posture.

We’ve complied 3 things you can do right now to help relieve your headache.

1. Breathe Properly

This is silly, everyone knows how to breathe, right? Wrong.

Ideally, when we breathe, our entire ribcage and trunk should expand in 360 degrees, with our ribs, spine, and pelvis in an optimal position. This allows the diaphragm to effectively do its main job, which is respiration.

Unfortunately, the majority of us have faulty breathing mechanics (we breath improperly). These faulty breathing mechanics can influences the position of the entire spine and rib cage. Our diaphragm, which is designed to be a breathing muscle, now becomes a postural muscle and cannot efficiently help us breathe. And so, other muscles attempt to come to the rescue.

Muscles that attach to the head, neck, and shoulders try to help us get air in.  As a result, they get overused, tight and painful possibly contributing to headaches.

Learning to breath the way our body was intended can have a profound influence on feelings of muscle tightness, pain and headaches. Breathing this was not only decreases stress levels and overall tension, but can influence your nervous system in a highly positive manner.

2. Change your position

Muscles and joints love motion.

Unfortunately, today we spend the vast majority of our time in static positions and sedentary lifestyles. Even those who exercise regularly probably spend many more hours sitting in front of a computer or hunched over a phone.

When we do not move and change position often, the muscles holding us in that position do not get enough oxygen and blood flow. This can lead to feelings of tightness, and contribute to what is commonly thought of as trigger points or “knots” in the muscle. 

While improving the set up of your work space and sitting in the “correct posture” are good things, spending prolonged periods of time in any one position can cause excess tension.

For example, the muscles of your neck support the weight of your head, which is about 11 pounds. If you sit with your head in just a couple of inches forward head posture, the effective force the neck must support can double.

Imagine if you had to curl a 22-pound weight and then hold it for a multiple hours during the day. Your arm would get very fatigued, tight, and sore. This is what happens to your neck muscles when they hold your head in still while you scroll through Facebook, type your report, or answer e-mails.

Intentionally shifting positions frequently, taking small micro breaks throughout the day, and sprinkling in a couple of easy exercises to move the neck and shoulders can do wonders to decrease the cumulative stress and strain that can contribute to headaches.

3. Get some hands-on work

Studies have demonstrated that getting effective manual therapy interventions, combined with posture modification and appropriate exercise is more effective at improving symptoms of cervicogenic headaches than doing any of these things alone.

A skilled therapist can utilize mobilization of the cervical and thoracic joints, as well as effective soft tissue mobilization techniques to assist in decreasing feelings of muscle tension, pain, and headache. These interventions can also assist in allowing improved range of motion and position.

Just know that joint mobilization and soft tissue work are not a stand-alone “fix”, but combined with exercise and changes to daily routine, can be very effective for headache relief.

At Austin Physical Therapy, our physical therapists have training and expertise in all these areas, and can help you implement a comprehensive plan of care.

 


Contact us today if you’d like to speak with a physical therapist about pain management or additional advice on how to help with your headache.

(Austin Physical Therapy has two convenient locations in Huntsville & Brownsboro, AL.)