Overcoming Headaches and Neck Pain
I am here today as your posture expert to tackle a serious problem that is plaguing our society.
There are two healthcare models that currently exist.
One model which tells us to wait until we are sick to seek care for our symptoms.
Then there is the other healthcare model, the posture paradigm, which says, “Why wait until you have pain and are suffering?”
Let’s prevent it from ever happening by keeping you in good health from the beginning.
I want you to imagine your future.
If I had a crystal ball, what would you wish for, what would you want your future to hold? Think about that for just a second.
Does everyone have that image in their in their mind? Hold on to that image.
In that image, what do you look like and what does your family look like? Are you all healthy and full of life?
Keep thinking about that image as you think about what it takes to get there.
What steps do you need to take to achieve your dream? Think of one action step and bring that image into your consciousness.
Now imagine trying to achieve that action step, working toward your life’s goal with a splitting headache, the type of headache where you feel like your head is pounding and you have horrible neck pain.
You feel tension from your scalp to your shoulders.
Did that action step just go from possible to impossible? It did for me.
Did it seem almost like it wasn’t worth it to even try to tackle that one step necessary to move closer to your dream?
It’s difficult to work in pain, it’s much easier to lay there and relax when you have a headache.
Even just the thought of living with pain is demotivating, What’s the point? If I achieve what I wanted I can’t even enjoy it if I have a splitting headache, right?
I have had so many patients come into my office with debilitating headaches and neck pain.
This patient of ours, Anna, was 57 years old when she came to our clinic.
She works at a clothing shop downtown, is a wife and a mother of a son and a daughter, each of which are now in college.
Anna had been suffering from headaches her entire life, for as long as she could remember. She had learned to “live” with the pain, except once a month or so when she would get a migraine.
When the migraines came, she would have to stay home for usually about 3 days at a time, in a dark room.
She would drink water, but food was just too nauseating for her to fathom. Still, she lived with the migraines. At age 55 she started experiencing shooting pain down her right arm, she was getting older, so she figured it was normal, and part of the aging process.
One day when she was working at the clothing sore, she had the shooting pain down her arm to the point where she couldn’t tighten her grip to hold the hangers and the pain in her neck was so uncomfortable, she couldn’t concentrate.
She took a few Advil to get through the day. Then after work decided she needed to take action, to make a change.
She needed help. If not, she risked losing her job.
The thought of not being able to pay her children’s college tuition was daunting. And her marriage was already in turmoil; she didn’t want her husband to keep seeing her as the “weak” one.
It was to the point that he would roll his eyes when she said she wasn’t feeling well, his responses were less than helpful, and more commonly something snide like, “not feeling well, what’s new?”
We got to work and started correcting Anna’s posture. Anna was committed to her treatment recommendations and followed her care plan. She is literally a new person with much better postural design.
Her structural alignment had improved dramatically, plus her headaches and migraines ceased and that horrible shooting pain from her neck to her hands lessened greatly. She also felt like she had more energy and self-confidence.
When the neck is drawn forward, it is one of the most dangerous postural presentations that you can have. And sadly, 60-90% of the population presents with this postural distortion pattern.
Forward head posture is a modern-day epidemic that is making our society sick.
When the head goes forward into this position, it is causing a serious amount of compression and strain to the vital anatomy including the spinal cord and the spinal nerves. The spinal cord controls all functions of life, protecting the integrity of the cervical spine is of utmost importance to your health and to the health of your family. We all know what happens if you seriously injure your neck. The effects can be so traumatic that you wouldn’t be able to walk again or control the functions of your body unassisted. Proper posture of the head and neck region is of critical importance to our health and ability to thrive as human beings.
When the head posture goes anterior, the amount of pressure on the cervical spine increases by as much as 6 times.
The weight of the head in relation to the neck goes from 10-12 pounds, up to 60 pounds.
Everyday, people like Anna are living with a very serious condition, called forward head posture that is causing strain to their neck and spine, affecting the cervical spinal nerves.
Let me ask you, can you even imagine carrying a suitcase on your head? What would that feel like to your neck, and the rest of your body?
Doesn’t the thought make you just want to cringe? And yet, there are some of you reading this, who are carrying that amount of pressure on your bodies right now!
These examples show us what it is like to live with the stress of forward head posture.
As the head goes forward, there is more pressure to the neck, so the surrounding musculature tightens and contracts to support the head.
Have you felt tightness in these muscles at the base of the neck? Have you had a headache recently? The headache, and the muscle strain are your body talking to you. Your symptoms are yelling at you, saying, “Hey, right here, we have a problem that we need to fix.”
Now, let me ask you this. If we rub the shoulders, but don’t correct the posture of the head and the neck, will it help? Sure, it will feel better momentarily, who doesn’t like a massage? But if the underlying cause is still there, it will be just moments before the pain returns. What if we take an Advil, will that help? Again, the pain will go away for a few minutes, but without correcting the postural presentation, do we expect that the pain will return? Yes, we do. What about putting heat or ice on it? Same concept, what we really need to do is fix the posture, so you can live better, right? If not, the pain will keep coming back again.
Before we talk about how to fix this postural presentation, let’s look at what we are doing in our daily lives that is causing forward head posture. We need to know what activities are causing forward head posture, so we can change our postural habits and learn how to overcome these stressors.
Can anyone guess the modern-day primary cause of forward head posture? I’ll give you a hint, it fits I n your pocket, your probably all have one, and you use it on average two to four hours per day. Cell phones… exactly! And iPad… or tablets…
What do we do every time we check our phone to see if we have a notification?
We look down at our phone, pulling the head forward in relation to the shoulders. And then continue to look down as we check our text messages, emails, and Facebook newsfeed. So, for 2 to 4 hours per day that we are on our cell phones, we are causing debilitating strain to the neck.
This condition is such an epidemic, that there is now a medical diagnosis for it, called “Text Neck.” So many people have forward head posture due to our interactions with technology. As the smart phones get smarter, our posture gets weaker.
Now, to be clear, I am not telling you that you need to throw away your cell phone. There would be no point, most people would rather live in pain than not have their phone. I get it. Instead, what I am encouraging you to do is to be mindful of your posture while utilizing these technologic devices.
When you hold your phone at eye level you are able to keep looking forward instead of straining your neck forward and down. Please be smarter than your smart phone, implementing this one piece of advice will change your life.
Here are a couple helpful tips:
First, to avoid looking down, you can raise the level of the computer screen to eye level. By moving the computer screen up, even just a few inches, it makes a complete difference to how you hold yourself upright at work, likely for 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week.
You can also place a small pillow at the base of your neck. The pillow provides support to the neck, making it more comfortable to practice good postural habits.
My hope for you is that you walk away from reading this a little different than you did when you started. My hope is that you are mindful of your posture, so you don’t end up like Anna.
As Anna was laying in her dark room with pain, her life was literally passing her by. Her job was on the line, her marriage was suffering. She had no will power to achieve the dream in her crystal ball. She felt hopeless. It wasn’t until she committed to a plan of postural correction that her life finally turned around.
Licensed Massage Therapist, MA #75533
350 Treemonte Dr., Orange City, FL 32763