Chronic Daily Headaches – A Pain in the Neck?
Strategies for resolving headaches
Why do we get headaches? Like many chronic physical problems, headaches remain a mystery to many sufferers. Here is a model that may explain why some (not all) sufferers are unable to resolve headaches, and some strategies to help heal headaches.
First, and most importantly, headaches may be a sign of a medical disorder. Any person with headaches should have a medical evaluation from a physician. If medical problems are thoroughly ruled out, and the headaches persist, the next step is to learn about your body, your mental and physical habits, and explore personal issues. Here’s why.
The body has an elaborate feedback system for self-care and survival, as does the automobile (e.g., battery light). These normal (felt) signals become uncomfortable headache symptoms when ignored. Modern living has made us less sensitive to these body-mind signals.
What might such bodily signals causing headaches be trying to tell us? 1. Physical stress: ergonomics – poor posture, bad habits at work site or with computer, hauling heavy weight (e.g., backpack) on one side of body, sports injury, auto accident whiplash, body structural problems. 2. Mental Stress: anxiety, guilt, anger, frustration, overwhelm, overwork, lack of sleep, conflicting inner values, anticipated upcoming stressful events. 3. Super-sensitivity: to bright lights, certain foods, loud noises, weather and environmental conditions. 4. Life stress: harsh work conditions, bad marriage, financial distress, small but frequent daily hassles. 5. Mental habits: worrying, perfectionism, type-A hostile thinking, uptight mental vigilance. 6. Behavioral habits: holding tension in certain muscles, hurriedness, impatience, poor dietary habits, teeth grinding / clenching, eyes squinting, anger outbursts, repressed emotions. 7. Physiology: hormones, allergies, sinus conditions, and medical problems, to name a few.
What health conditions may precipitate, and / or occur during a headache? This depends on the nature of the headache condition. For tension headaches, numerous muscles from the upper back / chest to the top of the head and face may tighten unnecessarily and for long periods of time from stress. These can cause muscle spasms, withheld tension, and one side of body tighter than the other. Additionally, one irritated muscle or muscle group can refer pain to other areas where headaches are felt. Chronic muscle tension produces abundant lactic acid and poor blood flow to tense areas, adding to pain and suffering. Such tension may contribute to migraine symptoms. Many muscles give signals that go unnoticed until a full-blown headache occurs. Such pain patterns can become conditioned and chronic leading to frequent headache patterns.
Migraine headaches may have numerous physiological precipitants, though sometimes there is irritability in vascular systems, disturbing blood flow to the brain and irritating certain (felt) pain receptor sites. “Irritable body” is the perfect metaphor for many types of chronic headaches, and the way toward healing begins with self-awareness and a commitment to applying time-tested healing principles.
Briefly, here are ten headache-healing strategies to seek and learn. 1. Get medical and wellness evaluations and a treatment plan. Explore and address all factors contributing to your headache condition. 2. Biofeedback training helps to develop deep muscle and bodily awareness and relaxation for a more healing relationship with your body. 3. Learn proper breathing strategies to release withheld tension and breathe free. 4. Relax skeletal muscles literally from head-to-toe, especially at muscle sites contributing to headaches. 5. Autogenics is a meditation strategy that may enhance vascular circulation and relaxation, and may diminish onset of migraine headaches. 6. Learn meditation to quiet (empty) the mind on a daily basis. Learn to let go of stress-inducing mental habits. 7. Take charge of your ergonomic health (body maintenance) and posture. 8. Diet and exercise are key tools for healing headaches. Find a good nutritionist, wellness protocol, and exercise program. Physical therapy and good medical care help improve bodily trauma and medical conditions. Massage may help restore balance to muscle tissue. 9. Guided imagery may help unlock and heal the mind-body headache connection. 10. Heal your life. Learn strategies for lowering daily stress. Take care to resolve unsettling emotional issues below the surface.