Steps to Relieving Headaches
In our everyday lives, our body endures stress - not only mechanically, but mentally. Mental stress changes production of hormones, increases tension in our muscles, and decreases our ability to tolerate pain. Mechanical and mental stresses can often set us up for common neck pain and headaches. These 5 steps below can help prevent headaches from forming, and can help you avoid taking medications that have long-term side-effects.
1. Proper Breathing - Without knowing it, daily stress actually causes us to breathe shallower. These shallow breaths increases the carbon dioxide concentration in your blood, which in turn, changes the pH of our blood. This slight discrepancy can throw off the delicate balance of thousands of normal chemical processes in your body. To address this, take time throughout the day to stop what you are doing and focus on taking breaths in for 6 seconds and out for 8. Relax your shoulder muscles and use your diaphragm muscle by expanding your belly.
2. Stretching the Chest and Neck - In sitting positions at the desk, we have a tendency to slouch and bring the shoulders forward. Over time, this weakens the upper back muscles and tightens the chest and neck muscles. Take some time each day to stretch your chest by gently squeezing your shoulder blades together. Make sure your neck stays relaxed. You can perform 5 repetitions of this exercise for 30 seconds each throughout your work day.
3. Strengthening the Lower Back Muscles - With prolonged sitting at the office, lower back muscles can weaken. This causes additional strain on neck muscles, which makes makes us susceptible to cervicogenic headaches. There are a number of specific exercises that can help build these weakened areas. Contact us for an assessment, and we will provide an exercise program that can help you strengthen these areas.
4. Improve Posture - The further protruded your neck becomes, the greater the weight and tension sets on your neck muscles. In proper posture, your head is balanced on your neck at about 10-12 pounds. With forward head posture, this can actually increase to the equivalent of 60 pounds of strain on your neck muscles throughout the day! Physical therapists are trained to examine your posture and work on specific hands-on techniques and exercises to restore normal alignment of your spine.
5. Hydrate - The vast majority of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Many sodas, coffees and teas are diuretics, which cause your body to eliminate water. The brain requires a certain level of hydration to function properly and remove normal wastes. Being dehydrated causes these toxins to back up, increasing the tendency for headaches. Don't wait until you are thirsty, as this is a sign of severe dehydration. Drink water consistently throughout the day in adequate volumes for your weight and size.
To learn more about how we help relieve headaches and neck pain with physical therapy, contact us today for a free consultation.