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8 Ways to Manage Headaches Without Painkillers

Woman with headache

Headaches sure can be a pain in the neck. And, while there are numerous other causes, such as hormones, sinus, or underlying medical issues, the neck/cervical spine can often be the source of your pounding head pain. If this sounds all too familiar, here are 8 Collins Place Physio-approved ways to manage your headaches, without drugs.

1. Massage

Massage can help prevent and reduce the frequency of tension headaches by relieving muscle spasms, releasing shorted muscles, and relaxing tension held in the muscles of the head, shoulders, and neck. When muscle tension eases there is less pressure on the nerves and blood vessels. Oxygen rich blood circulation improves, which also relieves pain.

One of the most useful methods of massage to relieve headaches is Trigger point therapy (TrP). TrP therapy is the application of pressure to a specific point in the muscles. An example would be the muscles extending from the base of the skull, and certain points in the neck and trapezius. When this pressure is applied, it interrupts the nerve signals that are causing the pain, resulting in the muscle releasing to a healthy position.

2. Stretching

Stretching the big muscles (upper traps) in the neck and shoulders can also help ease a headache when it comes on. These big muscles all attach to the back of the head and are one of the main causes of tension headaches. Using a spiky ball or your hands to try to release the main trigger points in your traps can also provide good relief when a headache comes on.

3. Strengthening Exercises

Long term, as a preventative measure, strengthening the postural muscles of the neck and back can help to decrease the tension in the neck and reduce the likelihood of recurrent headaches.

4. Dry Needling

Dry needling is another useful tool in the management of headaches. Dry needling involves inserting a needle into a trigger point / muscular knot in a painful or damaged muscle. The aim is to provoke a ‘twitch’ response which will enable the muscle fibres in that area to relax, improving circulation and decreasing inflammation. Dry needling can be very beneficial in the treatment of headaches as it quickly decreases muscle tension in the neck muscles that refer pain into the head.

5. Good Posture

Posture refers to the position in which the body holds itself most efficiently in sitting / standing / moving. Good posture reduces the stress on ligaments, muscles and joints which can cause headaches. An ergonomic work set up is very important for postural health, as are movement and exercise in general. Remember to take regular breaks from sitting, and incorporate some stretches into your day.

6. Heat

Heat is sometimes recommended for the treatment of headaches, as it can help decrease muscle spasms. A good rule of thumb is to think about whether you feel better or worse after a hot shower. If you feel better after having warm water on your neck, heat may be beneficial in managing your pain.

7. Address TMJ Dysfunction

Headaches can also stem from the jaw. If you are experiencing facial pain, clicking when yawning or chewing, tinnitus, regular headaches or neck pain, TMJ (or jaw) dysfunction may be to blame. Read more about jaw pain management here.

8. Manage Stress

The number one cause of tension headaches? Stress! Keep yours at bay with plenty of regular exercise, and relaxation techniques like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and massage.

Suffering from headaches? Speak to our friendly team today!

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