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  • The Top 7 Reasons You Get Headaches

    tension headache

    Almost everyone gets the occasional headache. In fact, depending on the source, experts say that it’s healthy (or perhaps it’s better to say that it isn’t unhealthy) to get anywhere from 2-12 headaches a year. Personally I feel that 12 is a little high, but we’ll go with the range as is.

    Oh, My Aching Head

    So what should you do if you get more than 12 a year? Just pop some ibuprofen and hope it dulls the pain? Get a massage? I won’t argue with that one. While treating the pain is certainly the first thing you’ll want to do, the next thing you should do is to work on figuring out what’s causing your head pain. By figuring out a cause, you can decrease the frequency and intensity of your headaches and gradually get their numbers down well into the healthy range.

    While there are many causes of headaches, here are the top 7 in no particular order:

    1. Stress – Part of the stress response is a tightening of the neck and shoulder muscles that causes the shoulders to come up and forward to help protect the soft squishy area at the front of your throat. You know… the place where your windpipe, carotid artery, and jugular vein live. Most of theses muscles are either directly or indirectly attached to your head. When they tighten up under stress, they not only  pull on your shoulders, they also put a strain on your soon to be aching head.
      A massage therapist, yoga teacher, mindfulness teacher, buddhist teacher, a psychologist, a therapist, and even your MD/DO can all help you find ways to reduce, eliminate, or better manage your stress.
    2. Allergies – When allergies affect your sinuses, sinus headaches aren’t far behind.
      Your doctor or a NAET practitioner can both help you reduce or eliminate some of your allergies.
    3. Trigger points – There are many trigger points in the upper body muscles that can cause headaches. Most of those muscles are located in the head, face, neck, and shoulders.
      A massage therapist or physical therapist should both be able to help you get rid of your trigger points.
    4. Posture/ergonomics – I could bore you to death with all the possible posture gremlins, but I’m just gonna highlight the most common.
      • Tech – You’re probably tired of hearing about it, but staring down at your phone, tablet, or other tech all day is not just putting a kink in your neck, it’s also giving you a headache. Even if your computer is at eye level, if you sit too far away from your desk you’ll be straining your neck muscles by sitting with your head too far forward which can cause headaches.
      • Books – To be fair, tech isn’t the only culprit. Looking down at books all day won’t do your headache situation any favors, either.
      • Pillow – If your pillow is too high or too low, your neck will not be aligned with the rest of your spine. This means that you’ll spend the whole night sleeping with your neck bent too far to one side or too far forward which will give you the kind of neck kinks that often lead to morning headaches.
      • Car – One final, common source is the headrest in your car. If you’ve noticed (and I know many of you have), they’ve been moving farther and farther forward with every passing year. I know this is for safety reasons to cut down on the number of whiplashes during crashes, but it plays havoc with your neck muscles which in turn take it out on your head.
    5. Hormones – Ladies, sadly this one is all yours. I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, so if you’re prone to headaches with your monthly cycle you’ll want to be mindful of the other causes and reduce as many of them as possible.
      Your OB/Gyn can test your hormone levels to see if there’s anything way out of the ordinary. If there is, both synthetic and bioidentical hormone therapy are options.
    6. Eye strain – Eyestrain is a major cause of headaches and is caused by many things: staring at your various tech devices all day (TV included), bright lights, fluorescent lights (even CFLs, although they’re not as bad), wearing dirty glasses, wearing outdated prescription lenses, or NOT wearing prescription lenses when you should.
      An optometrist can test you to see if you need glasses or if it’s time for a new prescription.
    7. Serious/ life threatening illness – There are many very serious and/or life threatening illnesses that have a killer headache (no pun intended) as a symptom. If your headache is very different to your normal headaches, is accompanied by speech, hearing, or visual disturbances, or just feels “wrong,” get yourself to a doctor ASAP.

    If you recognize your headaches in one or more of the above, get with one or more of the healthcare providers that I listed above to devise a plan to reduce or eliminate as many of the causes as you can.