Conquering Migraines

They can make your life a living hell.  You often wonder when the next one will hit.  Dirty little terrorists!  You feel like you have no control over them.  Medication helps some people, but does not get rid of migraines forever.  You are convinced that all you can do is giving an offering to the gods and hope for mercy.  Yes, they are migraines.

First things first.  Not every strong headache is a migraine.  Many people say they suffer from migraines, but they have never been diagnosed by a professional.  Many might suffer from another kinds of headaches.  On the other hand, some people suffer from silent migraines.  Silent migraines are migraines with prodomes (symptoms before the headache) that are not accompanied by headaches.   These people might not be aware they suffer from migraines.   Also some serious conditions mimic migraines.   Any time you experience a headache unlike any you have felt before it is time to see your doctor, especially if it is associated with trauma or constitutional symptoms.

Migraines are classified as common or classic.  In general, migraines tend to be unilateral (one-sided) and pulsatile headaches.  They do change sides from time to time; however, during one attack the pain tends to remain on one side.  They last from a few hours to several days.  They are severe and incapacitating. Women are 3 times more likely to get them.  Over-the-counter pain medications do very little in alleviating the pain.

About 90% of migraine sufferers experience common migraines.  These are migraines that start without any warning.  The classic migraine starts with a prodrome that signals the start of the headache.  The prodrome may include visual and speech disturbances, disorientation, numbness, nausea and vomiting.

Scientists have drafted several theories, but none has been found to explain all migraines.  Since more research is needed, I will not go over the cause of migraines.  I will focus on what to do to prevent and migraines.

HOW DO YOU PREVENT MIGRAINES FROM HAPPENING?

JOURNAL

Any good headache specialist will ask you to do it: you need to keep a journal for several months to find out your triggers.  Be as specific as possible.  Anything you ingest: your meals, vitamins, supplements and medications, all drinks (alcohol, sodas, coffee, tea, water), your daily activities  (you might get them when you relax after work or after you visit your in-laws).  It helps if you track your moods since clinical depression is associated with migraines.   I found out that I was extremely allergic to some solvents on cleaning detergents by keeping track of my daily activities in relation to the onset of migraines.  You must also keep track of your sleep time and how you wake up in the morning (refreshed or still tired).  A change in barometric pressure tends to affect some people.  If you think something crazy caused a migraine, keep track of it.  You might find out that certain smells, keeping your head in a specific position, watching movies at the movie theater and other variables we do not associate with migraines might actually cause them.

NUTRITION

When you analyze your journal, you may identify dietary patterns or foods that trigger migraines.    You have to be open-minded here as some of those triggers might be your safety blankets or comfort foods. You will be surprised at how many people would rather have a migraine than cut some foods out of their diets.

Your best bet to identify food allergens and sensitivities is the elimination diet.   The common allergens are alcohol (especially red wine), cheese, chocolate, citrus, cow’s milk,wheat eggs, coffee, tea, beef, pork, corn, soy, tomato, rye, yeast and shellfish.  You might be sensitive to other food items (food stabilizers, preservatives, taste enhancers etc.), check your journal.  The elimination diet requires will power and motivation (as if avoiding migraines are not motivation enough).  You will be surprised at how many people would rather have a migraine than cut their favorite food out of their diets.

A milder solution is  rotation diet in which you try not to eat common allergens more than twice a week.

Avoid dietary amines such as chocolate, cheese, citrus and alcohol.  They tend to cause vasoconstriction directly or indirectly.  Vasoconstriction is one of the mechanisms that can trigger a migraine.

Avoid caffeine because of its vasoactive effects.  Although it might help some people with the pain; it also can trigger them.  I quit caffeine over 20 years ago.  As soon as I did my migraine frequency decreased tenfold.

Increase fiber and complex carbohydrates since they tend to speed the transit of food through your intestines.

SUPPLEMENTATION

Feverfew (50 – 80 mg/day) helps prevent and treat migraines.  It can cut the frequency between 25% to 70% in some studies. Feverfew may suppress the release of inflammatory hormone-like substances called prostaglandins and histamines.  Do not supplement with feverfew if you are  taking anticoagulants.

5HTP (hydroxytryptophan, 400 – 600) enhanced with vitamin B6 work well to prevent, and reduce the frequency and intensity of  migraines.  This amino acid is made by the body from tryptophan and converted into serotonin, an important brain chemical.  Researchers think abnormal serotonin function in blood vessels is related to migraines, and some of the drugs used to treat migraines work by affecting serotonin.  5HTP tends to boost levels of serotonin in your body.  Deficiency of serotonin has been linked to digestive disorders, migraines and depression.  If you take antidepressant, St. John’s Wort or SAMe do NOT take this supplement.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids (1,500 mg/day) seem to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines.  Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties.  Remember to get a formulation with 500 mg of EPA and DHA each.

B2 (Riboflavin, 400mg/day) may decrease the frequency of the attacks by 50%.

Magnesium (200 – 600 mg/day) levels have been found to be low in many migraine patients.  It is especially helpful before menses may prevent some women’s menstrual migraines.  Magnesium increases muscle relaxation.  Try to eat magnesium rich foods like green vegetables, beans, nuts and unprocessed flours.  If you supplement with magnesium make sure you are also taking calcium along with it.

CoQ10 (100mg/3x a day) is a potent antioxidant.  It may help prevent migraines

Melatonin (5 mgs/day just before bedtime).  It will help you sleep, but it might balance your brain chemistry.  In a Brazilian study 2/3 of participants reported 50% reduction in frequency and intensity by taking melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime.

The link below will take you to the University of Maryland Medical Center.  They have an excellent website that shows open-mindedness towards alternative and complimentary medicine.

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/migraine-headache-000072.htm

Posted in Chiropractic, Headaches, Prevention and Treatment | Tagged , , , ,

Migraines: My personal story.

The year was 1979.  I was 11 years old. I was watching  the Muppet Show on a typical Saturday. The sound of lawn mowers and dogs barking in the distance.  All of a sudden, I could not see part of my visual circle.   A stupid blind spot with the rainbow lights around them grew larger during my next 30 minutes. Would I go blind? When it was gone, my hearing got weird as if  I was trapped in an isolation chamber.  The lawn mower and dog barks became sharp and “echoie”.  I was terrified.

I had just experienced my first migraine headache.  Overtime, the headaches became more frequent anywhere from once/week to three times/week by the time I was a Senior in high school.  I had learned to use caffeine to my advantage and for the most part could drink the right amount of coffee to prevent and shorten the duration of the headaches.

Thankfully, my academics did not get affected much by the attacks.  I took every precaution.   I studied every day and prepared ahead just in case.  I guess I owe becoming the Valedictorian of my high school class to migraines.  Unfortunately, the prodrome grew stronger overtime as it disabled my ability to make sense of letters (I could not read) and talk since I could not recall words no matter how simple.  I dreaded doing anything competitive or social for fear that I would end up slurring deformed words to my peers.  I carried that fear through college.  I also carried the same amount of determination not to let migraines get the best of me.  So I forced myself to feel normal.  I tried every new medication on an experimental basis, but none seemed to help.

After college something miraculous occurred.  After reading an article about migraine triggers,  I decided to quit on caffeine after I noticed that caffeine would trigger migraines if I had too litttle or too much.  My addiction to coffee rebelling in my head made the next two weeks excrutiating.  At times, I questioned my judgement.  The headaches weakened.  I also quit on red meat and chocolate once and for all as well.  The headache frequency went from at least once a week to only once a month.

Overtime, I kept investigating my triggers with food journals or sheer memory.  I learned that wine and other alcohol beverages;  orange, pineapple and grapefruit juices;  whey or purified protein powders; and most milk products including cheese and yogurt, helped trigger my migraines.  What that  really meant was that I could not drink most sodas, coffee or  chocolate products (cakes, candy or ice cream), most cheeses (some I might be able to have, but why chance it), NO PIZZA (read meat, cheese), no alcohol of any kind (might get away with one drink, but again, why chance it?).  Think of anything fun  to eat.  I could not have it.  I also identified certain preservatives like MSG and sulfites (usually in figs and coconut products) as triggers.  I also found out I had a  sensitivity to peanuts, some nuts and wheat.  Needless to say,  reading food product labels is a necessity for me.

But in my case,  food is not the end of the story.  I relatively recently found out that lack of sleep, flashing lights, drops in barometric pressure (who can control this one?) and the toxicity of some insecticides,  cleaning agents and paints may also trigger some of my migraines.  Also, drops in serotonin levels which might become obvious when we are depressed, suffer from insomnia or gastrointestinal (digestive) problems, might foster my migraines.  To counteract this, exercise, outdoor activities, laughter (watching comedies), lots of rest,  a set regular schedule, refusing jobs that impact my sleep and careful use of environmental agents have become integral in my war against migraines.  And it has worked: On average, I have only had 1 – 4 migraines/year over the past several years.

With all the behavioral changes I introduced in my life after college, the quality of my life has improved tremendously.  I haven’t taken any medications for my migraines since 1996.   All of them seemed ineffective (though they might work for some people).  Life has encouraged me to learn about nutrition and exercise which are an integral part on my fight against migraines.  The side effect? Looking younger than my actual age.  Not bad.

Many people think I am obsessive and  stubborn because I don’t deviate from the behaviors I have established in my life after college.  Well, those people don’t know how it is to live with the threat of a debilitating migraine lingering over their shoulders 24/7.  The migraine patiently waiting for you to break any of your anti-migraine protocols so that it can rejoice in making your life unbearable for a few hours,  a day or  a week.  When I weigh my options: the aggravation of my friends’ (or acquaintances’) criticisms about my stubbornness versus the disorientation and pain of a migraine attack.  The choice seems very clear.

To all migraine headache sufferers out there: you can defeat migraines.  The medical literature agrees that correct nutrition, posture, scheduling patterns, stress reduction methods and supplementation are key in alleviating the severity and reducing the frequency of migraine headache attacks.  It takes a lot of trial and error, but if you are willing to put the effort, you’ll find what works for you.  And when you do, you’ll experience life in a whole new way.

Posted in Chiropractic, Headaches, Prevention and Treatment | Tagged ,

The headaches that will make you cry: Cluster Headaches.

Imagine you get a strong, penetrating, burning pain around your eye (orbital pain) that may radiate to your face, neck and shoulders.   It makes you teary-eyed involuntarily… and after several intense short-lived bouts that repeat themselves over and over again, you wear down, you voluntarily cry.  Just when you think  they are gone, they come back again to visit a few weeks or months later.  Sounds like fun?  They are cluster headaches.

Whereas cervicogenic and tension headaches had no gender bias, migraine headaches are mostly suffered by females, cluster headaches have a male predilection.  They are typical of middle-aged men.  You may have several of them the same day, with the majority occurring at night (so much for restful sleep).  They last an average of 30 excruciating minutes, but may last up to two hours.  They cluster over days or weeks and then end.  They can be seasonal in nature.  They are described as the most painful pain the patient has ever felt as if a hot poker being inserted in the eye.  Lacrimation (tearing), redness of the eye, reduced pupil size, drooping eyelid, and runny nose, are common symptoms on the same side as the headache.  So patients will often look as if they are or have been crying.  Of all headaches they are the ones that have driven patients to commit suicide the most.   This patient is highly animated during the attacks and sometimes beat their head against the wall attempting to relief the pain.  Fortunately, there are good news:  They tend to decrease in frequency and intensity with age.

What causes them?  Nobody knows for certain.  However, There is a history of alcohol abuse and/or  smoking in many of these patients.  Many of them would not describe themselves as alcoholics.  Also, some foods might trigger these headaches.  So keeping a journal, like I suggested at the beginning of this series, is very important.

Scientists who have hypothesized about the physiological cause of these cluster headaches mention serotoninergic central inhibitory system dysfunction (similar to migraines),  blockage of the cavernous sinus and veins that puts pressure on sympathetic nerve fibers (this explains lacrimation and runny nose) and sudden activation of some hypothalamic and other brain areas.  No conclusive theory has emerged yet.

Chiropractic treatment might or might not be effective to treat these headaches.  There’s a lack of scientific studies on this matter, but due to the similarity in mechanism to other headaches, particularly migraines, a trial of chiropractic treatment during the cluster period might be effective for some.  The allopathic medical community treats them with migraine medication, 100% oxygen, intranasal cocaine or lidocaine.

You must contact your primary care physician if you think you have these kinds of headaches or if they have suddenly started.  Any new kind of headache must be examined by a professional to rule out any life-threatening condition.

If your headache gets substantially worse;  changes in nature, frequency or severity or if you have had any kind of head trauma, you must consult with your physician.  If your physician is not available, go to the emergency room.  Go to my introduction to the headache series to find out more red flags at https://nuchiro.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/from-mere-headache-to-a-life-threatening-emergency/

NEXT UP: Migraines

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What in the World Are Cervicogenic Headaches?

WHAT ARE THEY?

The word cervicogenic is composed of two latin words:  The prefix cervico which means neck and the suffix -genic which means producing or causing.  Therefore, a cervicogenic headache is produced by structures in the neck.  Diagnosing this headaches is sometimes difficult because there is no real agreement by the health care community about what structures to include as causative agents of these headaches.  On a broader scale, if you include superficial neck muscles, tension headaches might be considered cervicogenic.  I tend to agree more with those who believe cervicogenic headaches are due to referral pain from deeper soft tissue and articular structures in the neck.  However, I always remind myself that conditions do not read text books and presentation may vary.

SYMPTOMS

Daily headaches and restricted neck movement are common in patients with this kind of headache.   They have difficulty turning or tilting their head from side to side.   Some have to move their entire torso to look to the side.   Moving the head may sometimes exacerbate pain.  Neck pain is also typical.  Some patients tend to show evidence of  arthritis on film (X-Ray).

SIMPLIFIED PHYSIOLOGICAL EXPLANATION

Your neck is composed of many structures.  Vertebrae stack upon one another, cushioned by articular cartilage and intervertebral discs to allow them to glide and move upon one another.  The shape of the vertebra (bone), the pliability intervertebral discs, the length of articular (joint) capsule and the surrounding ligaments collectively determine how the neck and head moves.  All of these structures are interrelated.  Even if some of them are not innervated (like cartilage), they can affect the rest of the surrounding structures (which are innervated) and produce pain as ligaments and small deep muscles get stretched while struggling to maintain correct direction of movement.  The small deep muscles also act as proprioceptors (receptors that tell the brain where your neck is in space) and can easily go into spasm.  All of this is just to tell you that pain can be produced from any structure deep in the neck.  “So what?” you might ask impatiently pondering where I am going with all this.

To begin with, pain deep in the neck can trigger more superficial and bigger muscles (trapezius, splenius capitis) to tighten suddenly to protect the deeper structures.  When they do, they can refer pain to the head especially if they already had trigger points.

Secondly, the nerves of the deep structures will send information to the brain via larger nerves that converge on the spinal cord.  The spinal cord has different sections that send information to the brain about our neck status and other areas in our body.  It also has sections that send information about the head and face.  One of them, the trigeminocervical nucleus (TCN), is located along the section of the spinal cord encased by neck structures.  Because of this convergence, the brain might interpret that some pain is coming from the head when it is really coming from the neck… and you have absolutely no say on how your brain interpret things.

THE BEST TOOL AGAINST CERVICOGENIC HEADACHES

The interestesting thing  is that cervicogenic headaches tend to respond amazingly well to chiropractic adjustments.  Chiropractic adjustments restore function to joints and all their components.   They induce correct movement of your neck.  Correct movement of your neck diminishes pain in the neck.   If pain is not transmitted to your spinal cord the brain does not have anything to misinterpret. With restored movement, your headaches should diminish in frequency and intensity and may become a thing of the past.

So if you suffer from headaches that don’t seem to go away and you have gone to other health care practitioners without much improvement, maybe you need to see a chiropractor.  Also, remember how I discussed that headaches can be interrelated on a previous post?  You should be able to practice all the behavioral modifications covered on my tension headaches post (https://nuchiro.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/what-can-you-do-about-tension-headaches/)  and see some improvement in your condition.

UP NEXT:  Cluster Headaches

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What can you do about Tension Headaches?

POSTURE and EXERCISES

Where your shoulders and your head stand in space affects your suboccipital muscles(located between your skull and top of your neck), your scalene muscles (to the sides of your neck), your SCM (front of your neck from the middle of your neck to the big bump behind your ear) and your trapezius muscles.  All of these muscles become tight and develop trigger points (tender spots) that may refer pain to your head.

To avoid this:

Always carry your shoulders back and down.  If you look at yourself from the side, your head should be right on top (versus forward) of your shoulders.  Your ear should align with your shoulder joint.  This position should be maintained at all times even when being physically active.  If you need to talk with someone at a lower level (say you are a teacher talking to a student), lower your body so that you don’t have to look down.

Do regular chin tucks.  Yes, this is the only time double chins are really desirable. A chin tuck involves translating your head back horizontally, not flexing your chin towards your chest.  Think of the way ducks or chickens move their heads when they walk.  This strengthens your cervical (neck) stabilizers and stretches your suboccipital muscles.

Shrug your shoulders and stretch your upper shoulder musculature regularly during the day.  The shrugging will warm up your trapezius and levator scapula muscles and it will be easier to stretch them.

STRESS BUSTERS

Practice relaxation techniques.  From the simplest which is focusing on your breathing to more advanced techniques involving imagery.  To make sure you are breathing correctly read my post on breathing at:  https://nuchiro.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/staying-healthy-with-good-breathing-technique/

Join a yoga class.  Yoga is great at mixing breathing and movement.  It mixes meditation with movement.  However, the idea here is to take a class where the focus is not competition.  Try different places before you choose one.  Let the instructor know that you are new to yoga.  Also make sure to stay towards the front of the class so that the instructor can correct you.  Yoga is great, but if you are not monitored correctly during the initial stages, you can develop injuries later on.

Change your attitude towards stress.  Everyone experiences stress.  Stress will always be there.  You have no control over life in general, but you can control yourself.  Don’t take things personally.  Be flexible at work.  Whatever you do always think things work out for the best.  Develop an adventuresome spirit in which you see life’s challenges as new adventures.

Have a professional evaluate your movement biomechanics (the way you move).  You are connected from head to toe.   How you walk or sit might be creating your headaches.  Remember our leg, core and back muscles do a lot of shock absorption which might jar joints all the way up to our head.  This shifts some of the stress to  smaller neck and head muscles which are not designed to deal with a great amount of instability.

NUTRITION

Stay away from processed foods (packaged meals).  Not only do they contain many chemicals and toxins that tend to accumulate, but their nutritional density is very low.  In oriental philosophy, the liver, spleen and kidney meridians were associated with tendons, muscles and bone respectively.  It’s very interesting that the liver and kidney are directly responsible for detoxification (or elimination of harmful metabolites) and the spleen removes used up blood cells from our circulatory system.  Toxin infested body, impaired removal of toxins and tension headaches, make the connection.

Eliminate smoking, alcohol, chemical dependency on medication and other vices.  Any addiction only mask other problems in your life which usually create stress.  Unfortunately, you end up not dealing with the root of the problem and adding another source of stress into your life when you realize your addiction controls you. Not to mention the physiological damage they cause in your body.

Consume an anti-inflammatory diet.  Basically, this means eat plenty of vegetables. Reduce or eliminate simple sugars (soft drinks, pastries, candy, preserves, syrups,and similar products).  Reduce you red meat (that includes pork) consumption to a minimum.  Eat plenty of fish and/or supplement with Omega-3 fatty acids.  Get your carbs from complex sources like whole grains and starchy vegetables.  Supplement with antioxidants: Vitamin A,C,E and the mineral selenium.

MAGNESIUM

25% of the magnesium in the body found in muscle.  Clinically, it works as a muscle relaxant in the long run.  You should consume about 600 mgs of magnesium daily.  Make sure, however, that you are consuming enough calcium on your diet.  You may also choose to buy a Calcium/Magnesium supplement.   Too much magnesium may cause diarrhea so don’t go too far beyond the recommended dosage.

USE ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES

Chiropractic and Acupuncture have been proven to help with these kinds of headaches. Chiropractic manipulation helps relax muscles around  joints and restore balanced movement.  Acupuncture removes energy imbalances in different parts of the body.  It has also been proven to decrease pain after several treatments.  Also deep tissue massage and trigger point therapy directed towards affected muscles works wonders.

Finally, I would like you to read my post on red flags for headaches a few weeks ago and to consult with your primary care physician before you implement any changes on your headache fighting routine.

NEXT UP on the headaches series:  Cervicogenic Headaches

Posted in Chiropractic, Headaches, Prevention and Treatment

Do you suffer from tension headaches?

I used to think that people who had tension headaches were the lucky ones when I suffered from debilitating migraine headaches.  Then, I found out most of my triggers.  I hardly ever have a migraine headache anymore.  I know people who suffer from tension headaches on a regular basis and, let me tell you, I don’t envy them anymore.

First of all, what is a typical  tension (tension-like) headache like?  It is a mild to moderate headache of a dull, achy quality.  People often describe it as a tight band around their head.  Pain is felt at the forehead, the temples and back of their head.  It gets worse during  the afternoon or early evening.  The pain is usually bilateral (felt on both sides of the head).  Aspirin or any other NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen sodium etc) seem to relieve it.  Physical activity does not seem to make them worse.  They usually disappear overnight, but some may last days.  If your headaches happens for at least 15 days every month in a three month period, your headache is considered as chronic.

Unfortunately, conditions do not read the instruction manual.  So, some tension headaches tend to be misdiagnosed as migraines because they might be accompanied by photophobia (sensitivity to light) and nausea.  Some might be very severe and disabling as well.  There is a growing group of researchers who believe that these headaches might represent part of a headache continuum.  So before you scream migraine, rule out the possibility of your headache being a tension headache.  Why?  Simple behavioral modifications can help them tremendously and even wipe them out of your life.

Again, focus and determination are key in this fight.  If you read my last post about the importance of attitude and few things to do for every type of headache, I will recommend you go back and read it: https://nuchiro.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/are-you-serious-about-getting-rid-of-your-headaches/ .   After you have read it, you will be ready to implement some of my suggestions to fight tension headaches.

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Are You Serious about Getting Rid of Your Headaches?

I already covered the most important red flags when it comes to headaches on my last post.  Before I go further into ways to alleviate different types of headaches, I definitely need to ask you a question:  Are you serious about getting rid of your headaches?  Of course you are going to say yes.  My advice to you: Let your actions speak louder than your words.

Fighting headaches is all about commitment to embracing change.  It’s about being determined to slay the monster once and for all.   Regardless of the kind of headache, all headaches can be alleviated by changing some of our behaviors.  They also involve sacrifice.  What behaviors are you ready to give up to become headache free?  Which ones are you ready to embrace?   Something as simple as keeping a journal on your daily activities might be crucial to determining how to get rid of your headaches.  If you think this is too much effort, stop reading because you are not serious about getting rid of your headaches.

Diet usually plays an important part in recurring headaches.  Writing down on a journal every medication, supplements (herbal, vitamin or mineral) for  at least three months can point at food allergies and sensitivities that you might not be aware of.  Be as specific as possible. You must jot down your meals, snacks and drinks times. You might notice relationships among things that seemed unrelated: combinations of supplements and medications, food from certain restaurants,  timing of your meals or exercise and the beginning of your the headaches.  In 1996, after analyzing data from the journal,  I found out I could not drink orange juice, pineapple juice and coffee gave me migraines.  It broke my heart, but I quit on those drinks.  The frequency of my headaches  decreased tremendously from 5 – 12/month to about 5 – 6/year right after I made the change.  In 2001, when living in Portland, my headaches came back with a vengence.  Nothing on the journal seemed to trigger them.  It turned out that something in my apartment caused my headaches (probably molds).  Once I moved, the headaches went away.  All that because I had a journal to analyze to rule factors out.  If you think keeping a journal is too much of a hassle and won’t do it, you are not serious about getting rid of your headaches.

Rest is also a very important part of your headache-busting routine.  Not only should you get adequate amount of sleep (8 hours), but your sleep hygiene must be flawless.  Do you have a firm, yet comfortable mattress?  Do you keep your spine aligned during sleep?  How efficiently do you use your pillows?  Do you wake up refreshed after sleeping?  Do you know you do not suffer from any sleep disorder?  The number of hours you sleep (not the number of hours you stay in bed) should be the first entry on your journal.  How are you willing to rearrange your schedule to get enough sleep?  Still serious about winning over your headaches?

Rest also includes microbreaks when you hold the same position for longer than 30 minutes (sitting or standing, in front of a computer, reading or knitting).  For every 30 minutes you stay in a static position at work, at school or at home, you should take at least a minute or two to stretch your body.  Muscle and ligamentous fatigue leaves you open for aches.  Some muscles refer pain to your head.  If you are not nice to them, they won’t be nice to you.  Again, if finding time during the day to stretch and move your muscles from a static position is too much for you, you are not serious about getting rid of your headaches.

Physical activity is essential to keeping our muscles, ligaments and bones in top shape.  Even areas we don’t seem to work out directly (as the neck) benefit from your training.  The important thing about training is that you get evaluated by a physician who knows about correct movement (chiropractors, physiatrists and physical therapists rank high on my list).

Physical activity decreases the amount of stress.  Stress is a major trigger for headaches.  It is very important, though, that exercise does not become a source of stress.  A gradual approach to exercise that establishes realistic goals is best.  Incorporating stress reduction modalities like Yoga will make your routine more effective.   If you would rather watch TV, talk on the phone or chat instead of adding an hour of physical activity to your daily routine, you are NOT ready to forgo your headaches.

Also as far as stress goes, restructuring your support group is essential.   Notice who are the people around you that stress you out the most.  Stay away from them! Sometimes this is pretty much impossible to do. Your best friend or your mom can be the source of your stress.  You can, however, let them know what causes you stress about their behavior and be firm about not tolerating it.  Sometimes, your support group is responsible for some of the behaviors that trigger your headaches.  Is keeping your support group intact more important than being healthy and headache free?  If it is, you are not ready to let go of your headaches.

I’ve written almost 800 words so far just to let you know that some people are just not ready to get rid of their headaches.  To put an end to your headaches, you must have a warrior’s focus and determination.  If you are not ready to change your behaviors from rest to partying to diet to exercise, either your headaches are not frequent or debilitating enough (I’m happy for you, seriously) or you are subconsciously or consciously using them to your advantage.  I know what I just wrote sounds harsh, but as a physician, I understand that being strict about health is the only way to slay the headache monster.  Also, I’ve seen how people hold on to their conditions as if they were afraid of living without them.  The right attitude will reward you with less frequent, less severe headaches or might even eliminate them.  And being headache free for long periods of time or maybe forever is priceless!

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