Have you had a great summer? I hope so. I am lucky, I have just returned from my holidays, and I’m ready to go!
This month I want to talk about headaches. Headaches come in many shapes and sizes, and for a wide variety of reasons. The sorts of headaches that Osteopaths mainly are involved in treating, are those that relate to the neck, often due to poor posture and tension.
The two factors are often interrelated. When stressed, there is a good chance you will be holding yourself tensely creating muscle tension, but probably then demonstrating poor posture. So this is a common factor. There are sometimes changes in our breathing that may come alongside longer term stress and anxiety issues. Or possibly as a result of chronic respiratory problems. This may cause us to over-use the muscles across our chest, and travelling up the sides of our neck, and may then create local tension, possibly contributing to such headaches.
Quite commonly, a slumped position when we’re sitting, or even standing, forces our neck into a protracted position. (See picture below). This places greater pressure on our neck joints, and may create hinge- points of movement over time. It also shortens the muscles at the back of our neck and base of our skull. This may then cause local headaches, very often the pain travels over our heads and behind our eyes because of the nerves that can become compressed. If this happens to you, you should make sure that your eyes are checked with the optician, but this may be the reason.
If someone presents to me with this type of problem, I will assess their posture, and we will consider exercises and management of any underlying issues. There is a lot then that can be done by working on the muscles and joints of the neck to relieve the problem. Work is usually necessary into the shoulders and upper back to better address the whole issue. Possibly issues elsewhere in the body may contribute, so treatment could potentially look at other areas also.
Osteopaths can help some people with migraine headaches, but the causes of migraines are varied. Osteopathy may help with sinus-type headaches, by working on, and improving the drainage from the area thus relieving the pressure.
* Is your headache associated with other symptoms? For example, dizziness, fainting, visual disturbances, nausea. If so, you should check your symptoms with your GP.
* Does your eyesight need checking?
* Are you dehydrated, do you need to increase your water intake?
* Do you watch your posture, does this need to be addressed?
* Are you suffering unnecessary stress and/or anxiety? Are there ways you can find to alleviate this, do you need to seek the help of a counsellor or your GP?
For general care of your neck and posture, here are some gentle stretches.
You can do this sitting or standing. Its a great gentle exercise to open and articulate the joints of the neck. As well as providing a gentle stretch to the soft tissues at the back of your neck.
Gently allow your chin to drop towards your chest. Then from this position look to one shoulder, and then the other side. Repeat gently 5 times to each side.
Neck side-bending and rotation
Very simple. A lovely gentle way to provide some gentle stretch and movement to the neck. Sitting or standing. With your eyes looking at the horizon. Gently turn your head 5 times to each side. Then allow your ear to drop to one shoulder, and then the other. repeat 5 times to each side.