Most of us will experience a headache at some point in our life. For some, it is a rare event that lasts only momentarily. For others, it can be a regular occurrence that can affect day-to-day function and quality of life. They can range from being just nagging and frustrating, to totally debilitating. In some cases, there are clear-cut causes, like too many late lights, not enough water, or perhaps a little too much red wine. However, many causes aren’t so clear-cut, and can be an absolute pain in the neck (literally)!
Headaches can reduce your ability to concentrate, work and do the things you love to do.
Cause of headaches include:
- poor posture
- neck and upper back stiffness
- muscle imbalances
- muscle weakness
- muscle tightness
- previous neck trauma
- inappropriate work set up
- poor sleeping posture
- sedentary lifestyles
So how can you prevent headaches in the first place?
1. Strengthen Your Back Muscles!
Prolonged sitting (usually at a computer), with poor posture (rounded shoulders, forward poking head, slumped lower back) is the most common cause of headaches. Your back muscles get fatigued from sitting for long periods causing you to slump forward. Strengthening the muscles in your upper back will help prevent this.
An easy exercise to incorporate into your day to day routine is a row with a band. To do this exercise, pop an elastic band around a pole at about chest height. Stand tall and hold onto the ends, then pull the band towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades towards each other. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed down as you do this movement and your neck is relaxed.
2. Wear a Posture Brace
There’s a limit to how long we can sit with great posture, without getting fatigued. If you have to sit for long periods, a posture brace is a great way to assist you to keep you back and neck in a good position. At Physionorth, we love the Posture Medic brace as they are slim line and comfortable.
3. Maintain Good Neck Strength
Many people lack strength in little muscles in their upper neck called the deep neck flexors (DNF). These little guys keep your head in a nice upright position and prevent that poked clinic posture that commonly causes headaches. A nice way to strengthen the DNF’s is to pop into your hands and knees, (ensuring your back is in a nice neutral position with a small curve in the low back). Then imagine your spine is a string and someone is pulling the string horizontally from the base of your skull. At the same time tuck your chin in slightly. Maintain this position and slowly rotate your head from side to side 10 times. If you find this position too difficult, you can also perform this exercise by sitting down and leaning forwards, placing your elbows on a desk (then following the above instructions).
4. Maintain Your Upper Back Movement!
There are quite a few muscles that connect your upper back to your neck. If these muscles get tight, the pull on the neck and can cause headaches. To prevent this happening make sure you keep your upper back nice and loose!
My favorite stretch for this is a seated twist. Start sitting nice and tall in your chair, then rotate around to one side as far as you can, using the back of the chart to twist you a little further. Stop when you feel a nice stretch in your upper back. Slowly return to face the front, then repeat to the other side.
5. Stretch Your Neck!
Likewise, if your neck muscles are tight, it will compress your neck vertebrae and has the potential to cause headaches. One of my favorite stretches for the neck is the lavator scapulae stretch. To perform this stretch place one hand behind your back then turn your head so you’re looking into the opposite armpit. Hold onto the top of your head and gently press downwards if you want a more intense stretch. Only apply a small amount of pressure until a gentle stretch is felt.
At the end of the day our bodies weren’t designed to sit in one position for long periods of time. Studies have shown that people who fidget during the day, suffer from less neck and lower back pain, than those who don’t fidgit! It’s also a great idea to get up and walk away from your desk as much as possible. Have regular breaks to stretch and unwind! I recommend a quick stretch or stand up every hour.
Walking, running, yoga and pilates are all great ways to improve mobility and prevent neck pain and headaches. So find a form of exercise that you love (and will stick to), and get moving!
Headaches should not be accepted as part of normal everyday life! If you’re suffering from headaches and can’t relieve them yourself, please call to speak to one of our friendly physiotherapists! We can help alleviate your headaches for good!
– Jaquie Goldsack, Senior Physiotherapist
If you would like to make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists, call one of our friendly team on 4724 0768 or follow the link to book online. https://portal.coreplus.com.au/physionorth