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Tips to Prevent Headaches

(Adapted from an article published in the Murfreesboro Post in March, 2008, written by Dr. Mark Kestner )

Headaches are not normal, even though they may be common. It is never normal to have a headache.

The pain is your clue that something is wrong. There are many causes of headaches.

Headaches are often related to muscle tension in the neck or back, irritated spinal joints or nerves, sinus pressure, eye-strain or other similar problems.

Although there are many pain relievers that can reduce headache pain, if headaches are frequent, taking pills to mask the pain is not resolving the underlying cause of the pain.

Muscle tension headaches frequently originate from the neck and upper back muscles. This can result from poor posture, sitting or standing in strained positions, holding your head steady for too long or other situations that put excess stress on the muscles. Mental or emotional stress can aggravate the problem.

In some cases, simple movement exercises can help by repeatedly contracting the muscles and then relaxing them. One maneuver I sometimes teach patients is the “yes, yes, yes - no, no, no” exercise. To do this, sit in a comfortable upright position, and slowly and gently tilt the head up and down as if nodding “yes”. Repeat three times. Follow this by slowly and gently rotating the head to one side then the other as if signaling “no”. Repeat this exercise until the neck muscles begin to feel more relaxed.

Do not do circular motions. It is very important to do these motions slowly and gently and to stop if the pain is increased.

For most tension-type headaches this exercise will be very helpful.

Sometimes, simply going for a walk or other relaxation activities can help.

Pain medication can help, but it may mask the symptoms. Headaches will often return if the underlying problem is not resolved.

Chiropractic and acupuncture help eliminate tension-type headaches as well as migraines and sinus headaches.

Sinus headaches are often triggered by changes in weather. They can be worse when a person leans forward for any length of time. If the sinus cavities are blocked by congestion, the pressure differences can cause pain that can be very severe.

Nasal irrigation with saline solution can help alleviate sinus congestion. An old fashioned neti pot is one solution, but a new product called “NeilMed
Sinus Rinse” is much more effective. (The NeilMed product is available at our office, or stores such as Target or Walmart.)

Interestingly, patients that have long suffered with repetitive sinus headaches have found that chiropractic or acupuncture are effective in reducing or eliminating the headaches. This is something that we see frequently in our office, and most patients respond very favorably to treatment.

Migraine headaches can be very aggravating, and often cause patients to miss school or work. The research on migraines continues, and new discoveries are made each year.

One thing that has been borne out by several studies is that migraine headaches are likely to respond favorably to acupuncture. This is a very promising method of treatment. We have certainly found this to be true in our clinic. Acupuncture is very helpful for most patients that have migraines.

Chiropractic doctors have been treating patients with migraine headaches for more than one hundred years. This treatment is usually successful in significantly reducing the frequency and severity of the complaints.

Chiropractic care can make a profound difference for some patients. I recall vividly one patient that I saw many years ago. She was having severe migraines about two to three times per month. Not only was she missing work, she was missing out on life. Little by little, the headaches were virtually stealing her life away, one day at a time. (Migraine sufferers know what I mean: migraines can be so severe that you miss an entire day of enjoyment or productivity.)

The wonderful thing about this particular case is that after the first treatment, she never had another migraine. I ran into her several years later and asked how she was doing. She hugged my neck and almost tearfully told me that she had not had a single migraine since her treatment.

I especially enjoy working with headache patients. I suffered with migraine headaches in my teens. My parents had taken me to multiple doctors and tried many drugs with no results at all. Eventually I went to a chiropractor for a different problem. Amazingly, after just a few weeks of care, my headaches vanished.

I was so amazed by this outcome that I decided to become a chiropractor myself.

Dr. Mark Kestner