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.
Headaches can reduce your ability to concentrate, work and do the things you love to do.
To read more about the causes of headaches pop over to our earlier blog: Headaches…can be a pain in the neck!
So how can you prevent headaches in the first place???
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 in towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades towards each other. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed down as you do this movement and if your neck is relaxed.
If you have to sit for long periods, a posture brace is a great way to assist you, to keep your back and neck in a good position.
At Physionorth we love the Posture Medic braces because they are slim line and comfortable. Pop into the clinic if you’d like to give one a try!
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 chin posture that commonly causes headaches.
A nice way to strengthen the DNF’s is to pop onto 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 from the base of your skull, in a horizontal direction. 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).
There are quite a few muscles that connect your upper back to your neck. If these muscles get tight, they pull on the neck and can cause headaches. To prevent this happening make sure you keep your upper back nice a loose!
Start sitting nice and tall in your chair, then rotate around to one side as far as you can, using the back of the chair 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.
Likewise, if your neck muscles are tight, it will compress your neck vertebrae and has the potential to cause headaches.
One of my favorite stretchs for the neck is the levator scapulae stretch. To perform this stretch place one hand behind your back then turn your head so you’re looking into your opposite arm pit. Hold onto the top of your head and gently press downwards if you want a more intense stretch.
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!
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 that don’t fidget! It’s also a great idea to get up and walk away from your desk as much as possible. Do take regular breaks to stretch and unwind!
I hope you found my quick guide to headache prevention helpful. Please remember:
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!
If you’re unsure about whether we can help you or want some clarification on the above exercises:
Call our team on 4724 0768 for a FREE no obligation 10min phone consultation! (*conditions apply).