How I went from 2 headaches a month to 1 headache a year

Yes, it can be done.  I went from getting neck tension headaches about two times a month to getting one per year.   The horrid kind that you can feel building and building throughout the day. It starts as a tight spot in your neck that you try to rub a little bit, but that only seems to make it worse.  Then you can feel it going up the back of your neck to the base of your skull. So you try to stretch a little bit but again, that feels like it is making it get even tighter.

 

I’d try to take Ibuprofen right away, and I might get lucky and keep it at just a little headache.  Just annoying. But if I was unlucky, I would be sick for 1-2 days, in a dark room with an ice pack on my neck, sucking down caffeine & the previously mentioned Ibuprofen, super nauseous. Or take Excedrin. Or two.  There was even a time I would take my sister’s Imitrex. Desperate for any quick fix.

 

Does any of that sound familiar?  

 

I’d finally make time for that massage that I was “too busy” for any other day.  And I’d certainly take time to rest, because I could not function in the vertical world. At times, missing work or having to go in late.  Or I’d suck it up and go into work, but certainly not giving my patients the care they deserved.

 

Waiting until things are SO BAD that you literally cannot get out of bed is not going to make any progress long-term. You are only working to put out the fire.  You will continue to get headaches. You need to do the work to stop the fire from starting in the first place.

Pregnancy changed things.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first that I started to find another way.  You can’t take Ibuprofen and Excedrin and sip on Diet Dr Pepper all day when you’re pregnant.  

 

Here’s what I did.  I actually started regularly practicing what I preach.  I put it into my lifestyle. Everyone knows that those in the medical field make the worst patients, not just Physical Therapists (talking to YOU, nurses) 😉

 

  • Breathing

Every single day throughout the day I spend time doing deep, full abdominal (breathing into my back) breathing.  Breathing like this literally “pumps the brakes” on our fight or flight system and helps us calm down (described by Sarah Wilson in First We Make The Beast Beautiful). I do it when I’m rushing around trying to make dinner, when my toddler is throwing a fit, when I’m driving.  

Like most of you, my shoulders tend to creep up toward my ears when I’m stressed out.  Women, especially, hold tons of stress & tension in our shoulders. Working on the computer or caring for kids tend to make us being super tense in our shoulders.  Keep your shoulders OUT of your ears with EVERYTHING you do. Cooking & computer work seem to be the times I have to correct myself most often.

Dry needling helps resolve muscle knots, and stops the fire from starting in the first place.  When you eliminate the knots, you can get into better posture, move better, and have more flexibility.  It makes ALL the other things easier to do. It also gives you more bang for your buck from chiropractic treatment and massages.  

  • Yoga

I did not start consistently doing yoga until we opened this business.  As briefly as I can say this, the relaxation, stretching, strengthening and body awareness cannot be matched in traditional exercise.  In my headache life, I was only doing traditional exercise (elliptical…weight training)

Peppermint oil was my savior while pregnant for all things headache and muscle pain related. That was the only oil I used for about 6 months until I started exploring and experimenting.  Keeping stress under control with Aromatherapy is SO EFFECTIVE. I now know what oils I need in the morning (always a citrus, often times combined with a mint), which oils I need at night to calm my system (lavender & cedarwood work great for me).  

 

I SHOULD be having more headaches

I have a two year old and a 15 month old.  I am running a household and running a business.  I have more responsibilities and things going on in my life than ever before.   You would think that I’d be having more headaches than ever right now. I’ve had ONE in the last year (or longer).  I can only remember one and I also got a cold sore at the same time.

 

STRESS is the trigger.  My headaches and cold sores are directly linked to how I’m handling life.  Try adding one of these 5 things to your life. Once you’ve got the hang of it, add another. It just might help your headaches, it did mine.

-Molly