Headaches can vary from mildly dull and annoying to intensely sharp or throbbing. They can creep in slowly, or seem to appear out of nowhere. For some people they can last for a very short time, and others get headaches that just don't seem to quit.
No matter what the cause of your headache, these simple tips are a great first step to help you to feel a little bit better.
Suss out the origin
First up, you want to figure out why you have a headache. Have you spent too long at the computer without moving over the last few days? Have you been under a lot of stress? Have you lifted or carried something heavier than you're used to? Are you dehydrated? Or could it be hormone related?
Having an idea of why you have a headache can help you figure out if you need help from your Myotherapist for muscle related pains, or if you need to make some changes to your routine like drinking more water or finding ways to reduce stress.
Check in with your muscles
Most headaches have some kind of muscular involvement, whether it’s directly causing the headache or is a side effect of the pain. The good news is that you can figure out if your muscles are involved.
Have a feel along your neck and shoulders for any trigger points – spots that are tender and a bit painful to touch. Strong trigger points can send referred pain to other muscles, too. These are signs that your muscles are feeling tense, maybe from more physical activity than you're used to, or from staying in one position for a long time. Sometimes even your arms can have trigger points, so have a feel around your upper arm, particularly along the tricep area on the back of your arm.
Have you been clenching your teeth? Feel around your face and jaw to check if there are any super-tender areas. You might also find a tight band around your temples. Headaches can be an early sign of TMJ dysfunction, so make sure you see your friendly myotherapist quick-smart if you are getting headaches caused by clenching or grinding.
Are you getting sick?
Another common cause of headache is sinus pain. Try gently pressing between your eyebrows and on either side of your nose, right below the eyes. If this area is tender, you might have a case of sinusitis coming on, and you'll probably have other symptoms like a runny or blocked nose and a fever.
If you have a cold or infection, its always best for both of us if you wait til you've recovered from the contagious phase of the infection before you come in to see me. Check in with your pharmacist for a recommendation for something that can help with your cold/flu or infection symptoms - clearing the infection can often clear the headache!
Something I can vouch for personally is Salt Therapy to speed up the time it takes for a sinus infection to clear. The salt helps with inflammation in the nose and lungs, as well as breaking up the congestion and making it easier to clear the sinuses which hugely relieves the pressure. Natalie at Salts of the Earth in Boronia takes care of me when I feel a sinus infection or cold coming on.
Have a good stretch
Remember those muscles from the last tip? They are the ones we want to stretch out gently.
Roll your neck up and down, then side to side, breathing into any tight or sore spots. My little bonus tip here is to sit on your hand or hold the base of your chair so that you can really isolate the stretch into your neck and shoulders - when you're super tight, sometimes what should be a neck stretch becomes the whole upper body moving at once! Locking down your shoulder by sitting on your hand will help you feel a much more satisfying stretch into your neck!
Open and close your jaw slowly, stretching out the muscles and releasing tension. Using your fingertips to massage over your jaw while you open and close can also feel really relieving!
Reach your arms back behind your body for a stretch that targets the front of your shoulders, then roll down slowly as if you were trying to touch your toes for a nice back stretch - it doesn't really matter if you can or can't actually get to your toes, its more the stretching action here that counts. You can even bend at the knees if you feel too much strain in your hamstrings and the back of your legs.
Drink some water!
Most of us don’t drink enough water – myself included. But dehydration can cause headaches, and make them worse even when it’s not a direct cause. If you feel a headache rolling in, drink 1-2 cups of water. It can’t hurt, so why not give it a try?
Is stress playing into your headaches?
What does your down time routine look like? If its a bit neglected, try to find some time for things that you enjoy that can help reduce stress. For some people, that could be exercise or meditation - which are both fantastic for getting your brain to release some lovely happy hormones and neurotransmitters! But it might also be reading, gardening, seeing a friend, going out for a meal, playing a game.
Remember – headaches and migraines are two different things!
A super-bad headache does suck, but it feels different to a migraine. I’ll be sharing more on migraines in the future, but there are a few telltale signs. It’s probably not a migraine unless you experience at least a few of these:
If you have a headache that is being caused or worsened by tight muscles, I’m here to help. A Myotherapy treatment for headaches will look at your head, jaw, neck and shoulders, and could include some feel-good remedial massage to release tight muscles, as well as other approaches like cupping, needling or mobilisations to reduce pain and improve your movement. Book in a short session today, and we’ll have you feeling better shortly.
The human body is a confusing thing! Some things that don’t seem that concerning to you might be a warning sign for your practitioner. It can be difficult to tell what just needs a heat pack or a cup of tea, what needs a practitioner and what needs an emergency room visit!
What is meant by the term "red flag"? Its a sign or symptom that can indicate the possibility of a serious medical condition that may be dangerous if left unchecked.
So today I will discuss some of the most common red flag signs and symptoms I see as a myotherapist. If you are experiencing these types of symptoms, its always safest to check in with your GP first.
This might seem a little obvious. But sudden, severe pain is always a red flag, even if you think you know the cause. If it causes nausea, vomiting or loss of consciousness, you need to seek medical attention, stat.
Night Time Pain That Wakes You Up
Pain that wakes you up, stops you from falling asleep, or doesn't ease with rest is an indicator that something is not right. It can be associated with infection, inflammation, abdominal aortic aneurysm and cancer.
Sudden Changes In Bladder/Bowel Control
In myotherapy terms, this is a very serious red flag. Although there can be more benign reasons for a change in bladder or bowel control, it could be a sign of serious nerve or spinal damage. Seek out your GP asap.
Dizziness & Fainting Spells
There can be may reasons why you experience dizziness and fainting. Some can be as simple as low blood pressure. But some can be a warning sign of something nastier. If you lose consciousness completely, then you need to seek immediate medical attention. For dizzy spells, book in to see your GP for a general checkup.
Burning Soles Of Feet
It seems like the least significant of the listed red flags. But this one can be just as serious. Burning soles can be a sign of nerve dysfunction in the legs, spine or feet. But it can also be a warning sign for deep vein thrombosis – a blood clot that occurs in a vein. If DVT is not treated, it can be fatal. So don’t hesitate to get a medical check-up straight away.
Lower-Mid Back Pain Plus Altered Urination
This might seem like an unusual combination of symptoms. But it can involve serious kidney involvement – from a kidney infection to kidney disease and even kidney failure. If your lower-mid back pain is still lingering after a treatment, its worth considering that it may be kidney related. If in doubt, get some tests done to check your kidney function, its always better to check it out than leave it to progress!
Chest Pain & Shortness Of Breath
It’s not just the dramatic heart-clutching Hollywood-style chest pain that is a red flag. Any unexpected chest pain is a concern, whether it feels obviously muscular or deeper into the chest. Difficulty breathing can also be a major concern – after all, we need enough oxygen to function! For mild cases, you can seek your GP’s attention immediately. But if in doubt, call 000 – better to be safe than sorry.
We all get headaches from time to time. But severe headaches can be a sign of issues including hormone imbalances, nerve dysfunction or even brain tumours. The more severe the headache, the sooner you should seek medical attention. Even if you are used to having migraines, it is still a red flag to get suddenly what feels like the worst headache you will ever experience. Feeling confused, running a fever, vomiting and numbness associated with a headache means you need to seek help immediately.
Sudden Changes In Vision
Seeing is a pretty important part of surviving in today’s world. But if there are sudden changes to your vision such as blurriness, double vision or loss of vision (even temporarily), it can mean that something is impairing the function of your eyes or your brain. Look out for co-existing symptoms along with vision changes - like headache, dizziness, or nausea.
If you are experiencing any changes in vision, please do not drive anywhere, even to seek medical help. Order an Uber or a cab, ask a friend for a lift, or if all else fails, call an ambulance or book a home visit with a GP.
Muscle weakness when you have worked out or numbness when you’ve been sitting on your foot is one thing. But if you experience unexpected weakness, numbness or inability to move any body part, it’s a massive red flag. This shows that your nerves are not functioning properly or your nervous system isn’t getting the message.
If any area of your body feels numb, this is a sign of nerve involvement. Numb can mean different things to different people, but usually people describe it to me as being like pins and needles, a bit tingly, feeling "different" or a true numbness of complete loss of feeling. The most common areas to have this numbness is in the arms and legs, and usually it starts at the fingers and toes. This is a kind of red flag that your myotherapist may be able to help you out with, although you may still need to see your GP or your Chiropractor if any scans are required or if structural treatment is needed.
If you experience any of these symptoms, your first stop should be your GP. If you come in to see me and we can't clear these red flag symptoms, I might not be able to treat you. But once you’ve got the all-clear, I’m happy to help with any musculoskeletal symptoms. To book in a session, head here.
The human body is complex – pain isn’t always where we think it is. With referred pain, we feel pain in one spot, but the actual issue is somewhere else. One of the most common spots that can cause referred pain is the neck. Let’s have a look at why your neck might be the source of some of the pain you feel.
Why the neck impacts so much
So why is the neck capable of causing referred pain? A lot of what it comes down to is that the neck is part of the spine, which is where most of the central nervous system is situated. The CNS is made up of the spine and brain, and is where all of the pain we experience is processed – whether it’s muscular or nerve related.
This area is particularly vulnerable to degeneration and damage to the vertebrae that protect the spine. This sort of damage can lead to nerve impingement and inflammation that triggers the nerve. That then can lead to pain being experienced anywhere along the length of that nerve.
However, there is also the lifestyle impact on the neck. Check in right now – how are you holding your neck? Chances are, you’re hunched over your phone, or slumped in front of a computer. And that can lead to muscle strain around the neck area. Because the muscles around the neck connect to many other major muscle groups of the body, it can lead to other muscles hurting due to overcompensation.
These are just a few of the reasons why your neck might be the origin of your pain.
Pains that might be neck related
You might be feeling pain. But what sorts of pains can be related to problems in the neck? Common issues might include:
· Shoulder pain
· Arm pain
· Upper back pain
· Mid back pain
· Full length back pain
· Chest pain (muscular)
Simple neck stretches to try
Sometimes, the neck just needs a little bit of TLC to feel better. For some gentle relief, try these simple neck stretches when you’re feeling sore.
· Move your head up and down slowly. Move up until you feel a gentle stretch, and then down until you feel a stretch. Go a little bit further each time as your muscles stretch out and relax.
· Move your head from side to side, with your ear coming down towards your shoulder. Again, move to one side until you feel a gentle stretch, and then to the other until stretching. No cheating - make the movement come from your neck, not from your shoulder raising upwards.
· Gently circle your head. Alternate between clockwise and counter-clockwise. If one spot feels good to stretch – pause for a few moments at that spot, then continue.
Neck pain – wherever it ends up – doesn’t disappear overnight. If you have ongoing neck problems, your best bet is a treatment plan personalised to your body’s needs. Book in your initial appointment today, and we can get you back on track to feeling great.
Mel is a Myotherapist based in Ferntree Gully.