How To Get Rid Of Tension Headaches?
There are several types of headaches out which are migraines, cluster, sinus, and tension headaches. Headaches are a very important topic because a lot of people suffer from them! As a matter of fact the WHO states that about 50% of people will suffer a headache this year alone.
These very common disorders are important to address because they are classified as a nervous system disorder and many people actually call out of work sick, have a decrease in performance, anxiety, depression, pain, etc as a result of these disorders. Headaches are very important to address because they impose a large financial cost on the individual and the economy (loss of pay, unproductive days, treatment costs, testing, medication). As a result, headaches are the number three cause of loss (years loss due to disability).
More specifically, tension headaches are the most common types of headaches and they appear to be the most preventable, manageable, and treatable type as well.
What Are Some Causes of Tension Headaches?
Tension headaches often occur as a result of muscle tension and tightness that occur at the back of the neck. Things that can increase tension within the head and neck muscles include stress, eye strain, sitting for long duration (office work), dehydration, caffeine overload or withdrawal, alcohol, physical pain, poor neck posture, hormones and much more.
Whatever the cause may be, anything that can cause the body to have a physiological response to these stressors can cause guarding or tightness into the upper neck and lead to headaches.
In reaction to many stressors, the spine plays a huge role as it houses the spinal cord and brain. There is evidence that too much tension within the neck, or poor alignment of the vertebrae can place pressure on the Dura Mater. This is part of the outside covering of the spinal cord and the Dura Mater actually has connections with the nerves, and is pain sensitive. Disruption to this tissue has been linked to headaches and neck pain.
What are the Symptoms of Tension Headaches?
Symptoms of tension headaches are often a feeling of tension and tightness that wrap along the top of the head and go across the forehead. Many patients report it feeling like a band-like pain across the head. In addition, there appears to be a lot of discomfort and tightness at the back of the neck and sometimes even the upper back.
Many people often state that they have nausea, difficulty concentrating, head pressure, and pain at the back of the neck.
What are Effective Treatments For Tension Headaches?
As a Sports Chiropractor, I have seen many headaches in my time and almost all of them (any type) have been helped, improved, or eliminated with specific types of Chiropractic Care. In the office we specialize in soft tissue techniques such as myofascial release, Graston Technique, Active Release Therapy, etc. These techniques help to improve the circulation of blood flow, help stretch out muscles, and improve the range of motion of a joint.
Using manual manipulation (adjustments) and soft tissue techniques have shown to help all types of headaches. This research study demonstrated that when practitioners used Manipulation in combination with soft tissue techniques the outcomes were much better and manipulation helped to improve range of motion within the cervical spine.
In addition, manipulation has been demonstrated to play a factor to alleviating pain and disruption to the meningeal layers (layers of spinal cord) that contribute to headaches.
What are Some Tips to Help Reduce Headaches?
Headaches can be reduced in many ways as their are often a lot of factors that can be at play.
- Food – Food truly is medicine but there can always be “healthy foods” that you may be allergic to and causing inflammation within the body. Be sure to add whole foods and emphasize fruits and veggies. Healthy fruits, veggies have strong phytochemicals that help battle toxins and keep you healthy.
- Water – While this may be obvious you would be surprised how many people are actually walking around dehydrated. Think about it, we have coffee before work (maybe two), a short lunch break and the average person typically has a soda or two a day as well. If you really want to increase your health you need to start with water! My suggestion is that you drink about 1/2 your body weight in ounces per day.
- Eye strain – We spend enormous amounts of time on the computer, phone, reading, and in front of LED lights. The eyes are a critical feedback system that integrates with the brain and eye movements even effect our muscles in the back of the neck directly. Taking frequent breaks from computers and sustained breaks prior to sleep can help with better sleep and control headaches throughout the day.
- Posture / Neck Tension – As we sit or if we have poor posture, this can allow our head to protrude out further and further. All of this can cause poor spinal alignment, compress the spine and spinal cord, add tension to the muscles and create chronic tightness in the back of the neck and upper back. Left unchecked, this is often the common cause of chronic headaches that do very well with Chiropractic care.
- Self Myofascial Release – Since sometimes its too late before we get a headache its a good way to learn how to treat them on our own! Using a tennis ball, myofasical release ball or lacrosse ball, we can compress and mash the muscles that are tight and tender. This helps to loosen the muscle and help prevent compression of the nerves in the back of the neck and takes pressure off the spine, spinal cord (all structures that contribute to headaches).
Do you Suffer from Headaches?
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