The unifying principle and message behind this post is is that most headaches emanate from deep in the bodies soft tissues and within the patterns of stress we hold in our bodies. This is my offering and it may be one that you have not considered before or you might already have ‘drawn some dots’.
Many people have felt tension in their neck and wondered if it the cause of the migraine or headache, for others their headache is clearly felt first in the neck and then in the head. Sometimes the connection between a migraine/headache and soft tissue tension on the neck is not felt at all, until the ‘work’ of releasing the neck begins.
1. Body Work
To understand headaches & migraines better, if you think about hayfever as an example. Hayfever can appear to be ‘caused’ by pollen but of course there are a billion people who don’t respond that way to pollen. This points to the fact that hayfevers ‘causes’ are more along the lines of genetic issues, immune issues and sinus drainage issues, the pollen is the trigger.
Most of the headaches and migraines that I have worked with over the years (that would be several thousand at this stage) have turned out to be ‘caused’ by tension, stiffness and inflammation deep in the neck, deep in the jaw or sometimes the cranial muscles.
All of this is just empty words on a screen however. From the outside looking in my opinion is just another opinion, and the world is not short of them. The real difference between triggers and causes; and the true meaning of relief through body work only becomes clear for the headache sufferer when it is physically experienced in the first person. Then it all starts to make sense.
Most people find that working with a practitioner who is able to pinpoint areas in your neck and jaw that immediately trigger your headache when they are touched is a very convincing ‘learning experience’. What we are learning here is that the true nature and root cause of our pain is hidden within the bodies soft tissues.
Consistently working with the soft tissues that trigger your symptoms over time is an excellent way to gain some relief from migraine and headaches.
2. Postural Work/Rehab
One of the main challenges to our health collectively is the fact that we do SO MUCH sitting.
I am going to make a wild guess and say that we may now only be 20% as physically active as our great great grandparents were. Whether that is a good guess or not is probably neither here nor there, the hunting revolution, the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution all required a certain amount of elbow grease.
The tech revolution and the petrochemical revolution have both been all about reduced physicality in work, travel and in our home lives. This has left the majority of us with significantly less general physical strength and less postural muscle than nature intended for us.
If you could have a tactile interaction with a real life hunter gathering human who lives outdoors you would be able to feel what real physical condition is, and understand better how wasted many of ‘our’ muscle groups so often are.
There many upsides to being a non-hunter gatherer, and there are major downsides too.
Not only are our senses dull we are posturally weak. Postural weakness predisposes us to hunched shoulders and something that is central to our conversation about headaches… a shortened neck!!!!
Poor posture and weak postural muscles affects our necks by shortening them and leaving them consistently in a ‘dropped forward’ position. The solution to this problem is to be willing to work consistently kindly and patiently with our postural habits and the strength of our upper backs.
3. Manage Stress
Ahhh stress!!! Along our toxic diet it is one of the last remaining major health challenges we face. We have conquered predators with spears and gun powder. We have conquered the elements with housing. We have conquered infectious disease with hygiene and inoculation. We have conquered hunger with farming and agriculture. We have conquered smoking with education. We have conquered tooth decay with education. We even have cancer on the back foot in a way that is absolutely revolutionary but seldom mentioned ( this article would never have been written in 2019 without the benefit of giant doses of chemotherapy administered to its author in 2011). And yet we are still completely and utterly swamped by our ‘stress’. Also, not entirely coincidentally we are swamped by physical pain. We have barely put a dent in these 2 health issues.
If you are anything like me when you take stock of your life you may notice that it is pretty warm dry quiet and wonderful. There are no bombs dropping on my, my house is warm and dry, I am always well fed. The one thing in my life however that is often not under control is my stress levels.
For me I can track my physical wellbeing pretty neatly and tidily based on what my stress levels are like. I would urge you to be willing to try and tune into this if possibility in your life. When do you get sick? When do you get really sick? When do you get your worst headaches? Learn to assess the emotional context of changes in your health and your families health! I bet you’ll find the peaks and troughs in stress in your home and worklife are what dictates when you get sick and sore… look long and hard enough and you will see that the same applies to your children and your pets. When we are in a consistently calm and happy state, when we feel safe, supported and in control we seldom get sick and neither do those around us. If I am challenging your belief systems by all means start to take a skeptical but pragmatic look for these trends. Keep a cautiously open mind and see what you can observe over time. Be somewhat open, there is more science behind this than you might think.
While stress determines the timing of when our bodies fail us it is obviously not the sole factor that defines our wellbeing. Sleep, nutrition, genetics and exercises all play absolutely key roles in setting our baseline of wellbeing. You might say that these areas will determine ‘how’ we get sick when stress and emotions come into play.
So obviously if I am actually ‘going there’ and saying that stress is ‘the major defining factor’ (along with terrible food) in when we get ill and get sore, so inevitably I am going to extend this to headache and migraines.
From one perspective headache and migraine are a call to take charge of the stress in your life either by ‘upskilling’ or by making necessary changes to your life situation. If you are willing to do this kind of work it’s highly likely you will postively impact your headaches.
If you want to look into stress reduction I recommend you start with..
It can be hard to put up with the pain of migraine and headaches but it can also be hard to focus and function normally too, double whammy. Most people agree that life would on average be easier living with a pain in the foot than a pain in the head. The skull and brain is the seat of our conscious awareness so headaches are very ‘close to home’.
I believe that our default setting is to feel pretty good most of the time, that’s certainly how we are when express good health. Headaches are not ‘normal’, they are the body pointing you towards the need for changes that need to be made. The reward for doing that work is feeling good!