FEELING GREAT: Coping with the stress of regular headaches

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Headaches are a pain. We all get them now and again, but for some of us, they’re more of a regular occurrence than others…

And here at the clinic it’s incredible just how many people we see who tell us that they’ve suffered from headaches so often, that they just consider them to be a regular part of life they end up dealing with.

That’s why things like ibuprofen and other types of painkillers are such big sellers.

But drugs can only relieve the symptoms temporarily by masking the pain - when many times, the reoccurring headaches may actually be the result of something else!

Take a look at this email I received from a new patient last week as an example:

“Hi Paul, after reading your neck pain and headaches booklet I wanted to send you an email to see if you could help me!

“I’m 48 years old and the last 6 months I’ve been suffering from some of the worst headaches I’ve ever had.

I sit in front of a computer daily for at least eight hours in a job that is stressful most of the time.

“Recently I visited the doctor who gave me pills to take the pain away, but the pain still exists and all I feel is constant tightness in my head.

“I don’t know what to do, or what the cause could be, it feels like pounding at the front of my head.

Do you have any ideas?”

- Allison, 48, Hart

Of course, I have several ideas of what could be causing Allison’s headaches!

In my years of experience it’s often the case that if someone is suffering from the dreaded regular episodes of headaches, that they just haven’t got to the real underlying root cause of their pain - and most of the time it’s nothing to do with anything that’s going on in the head!

Many times recurring headaches may be the result of tension in the shoulders, jaw or neck - something that many people aren’t even aware of.

You see, while simple painkillers prescribed by the doctor may help take the pain away for a few hours, they aren’t actually doing anything to prevent them from coming back and striking you out of nowhere in the middle of the day.

Most people are aware that sometimes certain foods such as cheese, chocolate and red wine can bring on a nasty headache. But so can other things like hormone changes, being in a smokey room, irregular meals and disrupted sleep.

But what happens when you try to change all of these things but pounding headaches just won’t go away?

The one thing most people disregard as a trigger is ‘stress’. We all know stress does many things to our body, but where do we feel stress the most?

We feel it as tightness and tension in our neck and shoulder muscles - and all of this tension brings on headaches!

Picture this…

Mornings can be manic. You’re running around each morning, your late, you can’t find your keys, you’re not prepared for your morning meeting at work and the dog has just tracked mud all through the living room… No wonder why you’re stressed!

Add all of those daily stressors up, you’ll likely find that at the end of the week you’ve got a lot of tension around your shoulders.

Which is why it’s important to deal with these things daily, without responding to them in a stressful way, so we can start to prevent headaches and make them occur less and less.

So what are some things you can do right now to help?

There’s a number of relaxation techniques that can reduce symptoms of stress. Making time for pleasurable activities such as listening to music, reading a book, or doing your favourite exercise.

I personally love to go for a run, as it really helps to clear my mind and keep stress at bay.

In addition, set aside time, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, to practice different relaxation techniques - things like Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and deep breathing.

Many of our patients who lead busy lives during the week go to our Physio Sammy’s Pilates classes once a week - and find it really helps reduce tension (and not only that, but Pilates helps tone the body too!)