Headaches. A pain in the neck......?

Well it's been a super duper busy week- hence no posts for a few days!!!! Keeps me out of trouble I guess....I've had a run of patients with headaches this week. Different ages (10 was the youngest, 76 the oldest) and I thought I'd just have a wee chat about headaches.... There are many 'classifications' of headaches, but the most common ones I see as an osteopath are 'tension' headaches. Webmed states that a tension headaches are:

"Tension headaches are dull pain, tightness, or pressure around your forehead or the back of your head and neck. Some people say it feels like a clamp squeezing the skull. Often called stress headaches, they’re the most common type for adults." (Now before I unleash my osteopathic prowess on you all i'd like to just say I'm not a goody two shoes myself- I'm actually writing this in this school car park, in my car, slumped sideways with 1 leg up on the arm rest......!!)

  POSTURE is very often so influential in many problems I see in clinic, and headaches are no exception..... Sitting at a desk all day, squinting at computer screens, kids sitting badly on chairs/floors/beanbags at school, too much time cranked over an iPad screen or phone screen, lugging heavy school bags around... All of these build up unwanted tension in our upper backs and necks and voila- headaches. Osteopathic treatment, Pilates, yoga, work station overhauls- all of these are fantastic to not only get rid of the causes of your tension headache, but also help prevent it reoccurring. Our heads are pretty heavy things and out poor necks have to work very hard indeed if we tip our heads out of balance with our necks and backs...! I find a lot of patients with headaches also have extremely tight upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles. Working to reduce the tension here, and also getting the patient to build in the strength in their rhomboids to help balance the shoulder girdle is very effective at improving upper back and neck tone.

  There are other less obvious but still pretty common causes of headaches..... How much water do you drink a day?? Dehydration is a VERY common cause of headaches- as is consuming too much caffeine.... I had a patient who thought she drank 15+ cups a day!!!! And yes- she had headaches! If you love your coffee try limiting the number of cups, or swap for decaf during the day, and try not to drink any after 4pm as it will also be compromising your sleep quality if you drink caffeine too late in the evening. I try to drink a big glass of water before every meal, (plus others during the day -I'm a lover of water!). I get patients to get a 1l water bottle and fill it up and sit it on their desk. Keep sipping all day- you will be surprised how easy it is to finish it in the day. If you do sports or are in the heat you obviously need to hydrate yourself more than normal..... Green tea is an excellent coffee alternative. Packed full of antioxidants it therefore great at helping fight aging (mops up all those free radicals!) helps reduce inflammation, improves brain function etc.... Pop a couple of fresh mint leaves in, or a squeeze of lemon to mix things up a bit.

  Lack of sleep and poor quality of sleep can also lead to headaches.... Gentle stretching/yoga before you go to bed can help relax your mind and help you nod off. Limit the tv/screen time 30 minutes before bed- the brightness and flickering in the screen keeps your brain whiring. There are tonnes of websites with easy yoga stretches designed to do before bed.... Have a Google! (And quit the coffee and tea before bed!)

  Sinus blockage can also give you a smacking good headache.... I'm very familiar with these! Osteopathy can be very beneficial when dealing with sinus congestion too. Tension in the neck and face will prevent the sinuses from draining easily, therefore making them more prone to bacterial/fungal infection. Invasive dental surgery and TMJ (jaw) problems can also effect sinus drainage. Gentle cranial releases and working through the fascia and muscles of the face and scalp can greatly reduce the sinus pressure, thus easing the pain.

  Hopefully that will give you some ideas on how to help your headaches. Think hard about your posture (sitting and standing), take regular breaks from sitting, increase your water consumption, add some stretches into your day and I'm sure you will reap the rewards! In my head I look EXACTLY like this. Sam (him of the Conan tendencies) walked into the room yesterday while I was doing some yoga, shuddered, and walked out again, so I suspect I might not be quite there yet......