Headache Triggers And Effective Relief

We’ve all had a headache before and know how debilitating they can be. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, some even cause nausea. They almost always ruin your day and even change the way you live.

So how do you deal with a pounding headache? Lie down? Grit your teeth and carry on? Take pain medication and wait? These solutions only provide temporary relief at best. Pain medications have limited effects on many types of headaches. Attention is turning to the use of non-drug options and fortunately, there’s many other techniques that provide alternative solutions that last. But before we get to that, we need to know what causes a headache in the first place.

Headache Triggers

Headaches have many causes. These causes are often called “triggers.” Triggers may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and/or behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). Certain foods can also contribute to the development of headaches.

Another more subtle, but equally as powerful trigger is a person’s posture. People today engage in more sedentary activities than they used to, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture. This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp, causing the head to ache.

What Can You Do?

Consider these lifestyle strategies to prevent and help alleviate headaches:

Watch what you eat
Avoid caffeine. Foods such as chocolate, coffee, sodas and cocoa contain high levels of the stimulant.
Avoid foods with a high salt or sugar content. These foods may cause migraines resulting in sensitivity to light, noise or abrupt movements. Some people will need to avoid high-protein foods, dairy products and/or red meat.

Avoid alcohol
Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. These drinks can dehydrate you and cause headache pain. It doesn’t take more than one or two ‘hangovers’ to understand this one. And even if you don’t consume alcohol…

Drink an adequate amount of water each day to help avoid dehydration. Dehydration in general is a quick path to a headache.

Take a break
If you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer or on a cell phone, typing, playing video games or reading, take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour. The stretches should take your head and neck through a comfortable range of motion.

Get your body moving
Low-impact exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches. However, if you are prone to dull, throbbing headaches, avoid heavy exercise. Engage in such activities as walking and low-impact aerobics.

Avoid teeth clenching
The upper teeth should never touch the lowers, except when swallowing. This results in stress at the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull. This commonly leads to TMJ irritation and a form of tension headaches.

What Can Be Done At IPM?

All of our staff at Integrated Physical Medicine have undergone extensive training to help their patients with headaches and migraines. They can look for and identify how tension in the spine relates to problems in other parts of the body, including the head. They are able to then take steps to relieve not just the headache, but the root cause of the headache.

Spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) is a centerpiece of chiropractic care. Research shows that SMT may be an effective treatment option for cervicogenic headaches, which are tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck.

In fact, a scientific review of research* published in 2020 determined that SMT could be considered an effective treatment for tension headaches because it provides “superior, small, short-term effects for pain intensity, frequency and disability when compared with other manual therapies.”

In addition to their expertise in spinal manipulation, chiropractors are trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises. These adjustments are designed to improve spinal function and alleviate the stress on your system, not just with your head and neck but your entire body.

Our IPM staff can also provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counseling. Recommendations for changes in a person’s diet can create amazingly positive results.

Finally, our IPM staff can offer very specific advice on posture, ergonomics (work postures), exercises and relaxation techniques unique to each patient. This advice can dramatically help relieve the recurring joint irritation and tension in the muscles of the neck and upper back, issuing short and long term relief to headache pain.

Call one of our offices today and find out how easy it can be to get fast, effective relief for your headache.

* Fernandez M, Moore C, Tan J, Lian D, Nguyen J, Bacon A, Christie B, Shen I, Waldie T, Simonet D, Bussières A. Spinal manipulation for the management of cervicogenic headache: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Pain. 2020 Oct;24(9):1687-1702. doi: 10.1002/ejp.1632. Epub 2020 Jul 20. PMID: 32621321.

This information is for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for treatment or consultation with a healthcare professional. If you have specific questions, call any of our offices today.