By Dr. Chris Mulvey, PT
The pharmacy aisles of your neighborhood supermarket likely are lined with headache medications –ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen and more.
All of us experience an occasional headache, and taking a pill – and perhaps a nap – usually does the trick. For individuals who experience regular headaches, though, over-the-counter medication isn’t a viable long-term solution.
Headaches can cause mood changes, irritability, sensitivity to light and noise, blurred vision, nausea and other symptoms. Rather than wait for headaches or migraines to surface, and thus allow symptoms to impact your daily routine, it’s best to avoid headaches altogether. Although that sounds like an impossible feat, physical therapy is medically proven to decrease and even eliminate frequent headaches.
Every individual is different, but physical therapists suggest three relatively simple changes to your lifestyle that can have an immense impact:
Many office workers experience regular headaches, often attributing them to work-related stress. Poor posture, however, causes tension and pressure in one’s upper back, neck, and shoulders. Over time, your muscles, nerves, tissues, and joints become imbalanced.
Physical therapists can assess an individual’s posture while standing and sitting, as well as provide an ergonomic analysis of the workstation.
Stress is a trigger for headaches, and it’s important to control stress as best as possible. It’s natural to worry about finances, employment or family issues, but exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Regular exercise releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers that improve both physical and emotional well-being.
Physical therapists can prescribe a specific list of exercises and breathing techniques that can help patients unwind their bodies and minds.
We all know there are certain foods that are good for our bodies – vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains – but those foods also can prevent headaches. Leafy greens, non-citrus fruits, brown rice, chicken, and fish are highly recommended by nutrition experts. Some of the most common food triggers for headaches are eggs, dairy products, citrus, caffeine, sodium, artificial sweeteners, and bread products.
Keep a daily food log. Physical therapists can connect the dots between nutrition and the onset of headaches, possibly pointing to specific foods that trigger headaches. It’s also important to stay hydrated, drinking plenty of non-caffeinated, non-sugary liquids.
Additional factors that contribute to headaches include the lack of adequate sleep, high blood pressure, viruses, overheating, and poor vision.
With other types of pain, like a sore Achilles tendon or stomachache, you can still function. The pain might bother you, but it usually doesn’t knock you down for the count. Headaches and migraines, though, are centered in your brain, which controls your whole body.
So many people just try to live with chronic headaches, not knowing there are ways to avoid them altogether.
As always, consult with a trained medical professional prior to making any substantial exercise, dietary, or lifestyle changes.
About the Author
Dr. Chris Mulvey, PT, is president for company-owned operations at FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers, which has 427 locations in 45 states. For more information, please visit Fyzical.com.