Fort Collins Tension Headaches

Simple Things You Can Do To Get Relief

The primary cause of tension headaches is muscle dysfunction within your neck and upper body. Every aspect of your life affects these soft tissues – work, sleep, exercise, kids, etc. Depending on what you’ve got going on in your life, you could have one of many situations involving different chronic postural pain patterns. These postural patterns typically involve opposing muscles that are either weak or too strong. A good example is someone with ‘forward rolled shoulders’. Most of us have heard this term. These people have extremely tight, strong chest muscles (pectoralis minor and major) that chronically pull the shoulders forward. On the other hand; their upper back and rear shoulder muscles will be weak and lengthened due to the upper body slumping and rolling forward constantly. It is a chronic ‘tug of war’ between opposing muscle groups. Regardless of your specific pattern, it probably involves tight, tender muscles with large trigger points (knots). Once the situation has progressed to this point, joints within the spine may become misaligned and irritate the delicate spinal nerves as they enter your body. Both the muscles and the spine have a part in causing tension headaches and both require treatment for lasting headache relief.

Stay Hydrated

A fair amount of tension headaches are caused byBody-Water-Content simple dehydration! This is especially true when you live in a dry climate such as Fort Collins. You should be drinking 3-4 liters of water per day. This includes only water and not fluid intake from other drinks such as coffee, sports drinks or milk. The simplest way to assure you’re drinking enough water is to drink from the same bottle daily, especially at work. Most bottles are made in liter increments and this makes it easy to tally how much water you’re drinking per day. Headaches due to a slightly (or very) dehydrated state are especially common in the afternoon. Water is crucial for all physiological reactions within the body, including muscle and joint function. It may seem too easy to be important, but trust me; you do not want to overlook this simple necessity for headache relief.

Nutrition for Headaches

Hippocrates, the ‘father of medicine’, said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Just like dehydration, simple nutritional deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and fatty acids can even play a role in causing tension headaches. Every tissue in your body lives off what you eat. And no matter how well you eat, you will never be able to cover all the bases. This is especially true for the vast majority of American diets – vegans, vegetarians and omnivores included. So to make up for this, there are two Pharmax-fish-oilminimal necessities you should take daily to ensure headache relief - a quality whole food multi-vitamin and an Omega-3 fish oil supplement. These two will serve as a foundation of overall health and will correct the majority of nutritional deficiencies leading to tension headaches. When purchasing supplements, be sure to place extra emphasis on the word ‘quality’. Most vitamins and fish oil capsules sold at large chain stores are not worth the rock-bottom price you are paying for them. This is due to their synthetic vitamin content (unnatural vitamins) and over-processing of the oil. When you buy these, you are literally wasting your money. I recommend purchasing a whole food multi-vitamin (made from real food) and fish oil that’s free of metals and minimally processed. You should be able to take both of these supplements for about two dollars per day total. I personally use and sell in my office Professional Right Foods Vitamins and Pharmax Fish Oil. They are high quality and reasonably priced.

Sleep Is Not Over Rated

Sleep is crucial to your body on so many levels. As it relates to tension headaches; it is the time when your body repairs from all the ‘micro-trauma’ you accumulate daily. If you don’t sleep enough or your sleep quality is poor, you are robbing your body of this necessary component of life. This is when tension accumulates fastest in your body. Most people in Fort Collins instinctively know how much sleep they need to feel optimum; however the average amount needed ranges from 7-9 hours for adults. Furthermore, you should be sleeping on your back preferably. Side sleeping is acceptable but not great, and sleeping on your stomach is a definite no-no. Stomach sleeping is terrible on your neck and low back and can easily lead to headaches on its own. If you are a stomach sleeper, you will not get lasting headache relief until you correct this habit. When choosing a pillow, choose one that keeps your neck and head in a neutral position. A pillow should only fill in the gaps between your neck and the bed and should not elevate your head much at all.

Allow the Experts to Do Their Job

As much as you may want to do everything yourself; if you are suffering from tension headaches in Fort Collins you probably need the help of a professional in the natural healing arts. Remember that tension headaches have three main contributors – muscles, joints and nerves. For this particular problem, I recommend addressing the muscles with deep tissueGonstead-Thoracic-Adjustment massage, acupuncture, or Rossiter. Each of these natural health care modalities effectively addresses muscle tension from different perspectives. They complement each other very well and can also be utilized together. To address the joint and nerve components of tension headaches, I recommend seeing a Gonstead chiropractor such as myself. We are a certain type of chiropractor that adjusts the spine very accurately. This accuracy is often the missing link for patients who have ‘already tried chiropractic’ and didn’t get the headache relief they sought. All chiropractors are not the same and these headaches are easy to fix using specific chiropractic adjusting.

Daily Stretching regimen

Have you ever thought to yourself, ‘I really should stretch more often’? If you have, you should probably follow your own advice! We have already discussed how muscles that become tight and shortened in length are a large contributor to tension headaches. Daily stretching helps these chronically tight muscles return to a normal state. It also helps maintain the work of the doctor or therapist you are seeing for the condition. Many people notice a notable improvement in their pain just by doing their headache stretches for 10-20 minutes a day. I recommend implementing two main stretching sessions per day. It is also a good idea to perform some quick headache stretches whenever you have time in between. The first stretching of the day should be shortly after waking up in the morning. You should really be stretching out your entire body, but for tension headaches specifically, you need to stretch the musculature of your neck (front and back), chest and upper back. This specifically includes the pectoralis, sternocleidomastoid (SCM), upper trapezius, levator scapulae and cervical paraspinal muscles. Make sure you are holding each stretch for a good length of time – about 10-20 seconds. Headache stretches are best instructed in person by a trained professional. This ensures you are hitting the right muscle fibers and not doing any damage. There is probably someone in your life that can show you how to stretch out these areas –a trainer at your gym, your chiropractor or a friend maybe. I personally develop daily stretching plans for many of my Fort Collins patients to give them better and faster results.

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