A headache here and there is nothing to worry about, but head pain becomes a serious drain on your resources when it returns day after day. Migraines are even more disruptive of your daily schedule, and the medications used to treat them are often sedating, too.
Instead of fighting back at headaches after the pain settles in, we at Houston Headache Institute believe it’s better to prevent them from occurring at all. Learning the triggers for migraines and chronic headaches allows patients to avoid the symptoms, and we’ve noticed a clear connection between poor posture and chronic head pain complaints.
The Tension Link
While it was once supposed that dehydration or food sensitivities were the primary triggers of migraines and cluster headaches, recent research indicates that tension in the neck and jaw muscles actually plays a far bigger role.
This is good news for our patients who suffer from daily headaches because neck tension is easily treated with a wide range of lifestyle changes and basic exercises. Options for correcting neck tension caused by bad posture include:
- Taking short breaks throughout the day to stretch the neck, upper back, and shoulders
- Adjusting the work area to meet modern ergonomic standards, such as raising a computer monitor to natural eye line height
- Avoiding types of exercise that increase neck extension, such as bike riding and some forms of weight lifting
- Spending more time resting in a neutral position that supports the head and neck.
Daily Posture Problems
On top of basic posture mistakes, we find that many patients also engage in activities that tighten the neck muscles by association. For example, lifting a toddler multiple times a day or carrying heavy loads on one hip sends tension throughout the body and into the neck area.
Improving posture and following better movement dynamics can make an immediate difference in the number and severity of headaches. Even if patients can’t completely eliminate serious migraines completely by improving posture alone, we’ve found that it is easier to get good results with our other treatment options after major physical triggers are avoided.
Sometimes it’s even wardrobe choices that can trigger an afternoon cluster headache due to neck tension. Spending hours on your feet in high-heeled shoes tightens muscles all the way up the spine. Of course, even sensible shoes and cushioned insoles can’t eliminate muscle tension for employees that stand for eight hours or more each day. Invest in a thick gel mat or lift one foot with a small stool for 30 minutes at a time to reduce the chances of a headache.
Of course, most migraine and headache patients we see here in Houston also have at least one other trigger beyond neck tension.
Compounding headache triggers include:
- Irregular sleep schedules or chronic lack of sleep
- High levels of stress, especially over months and years
- Pregnancy, especially in the third trimester
- Lifting or carrying heavy weights, such as an overloaded backpack
- Exercising or doing hard labor with poor muscle tone, leading to chronic overexertion
- Improperly fitting shoes that are too small or too big
- Uneven leg length, causing spinal alignment changes
- Constant use of screens on smart phones, tablets, and laptops
Houston Headache Institute
Not sure what triggers are causing your headaches or migraines? Please contact us at the Houston Headache Institute to get help from our headache specialists with the latest and most proven treatments. Don’t let your chronic pain issues hold you back from enjoying your life!