Treating Tension Headaches Naturally

Which Muscles Cause Tension Headaches?

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

The snowbirds are long gone!  The plus is that it’s easier to get into restaurants, and the roads aren’t as crowded.  Of course, the minus is the weather. August is the hottest month of the year.

August is definitely a s-l-o-w month in Florida.  The temperature is in the mid-upper 90’s, which isn’t really too bad for a Floridian, but the humidity feels like it’s 120°!

You walk out of your cool house, and it hits you like a wet washcloth, immediately making you sweat from your hair to your toes.

So, it’s time to just relax, enjoy the beach and read a good book.   And thank heaven for air-conditioning!

Topic Of The Month – Tension Headaches

headacheLately a lot of people have been coming to my office complaining of headaches that have plagued them for a long time…in one case for years!

This woman has been everywhere and had every test that the medical world could offer.  Nothing showed why she had these terrible headaches.  At one point she told me the pain was a 10 on a scale of 1-10.  Imagine how terrible it was for her to suffer every day from such a crippling condition.  My heart went out to her!

Fortunately, her problem was caused by muscles, the one thing that most of the medical world doesn’t consider when looking for a solution to pain.

In fact, if you watched my TED talk: The Pain Question No One is Asking, you may have already heard me talk about this missing link. (If you haven’t heard my TED talk, go to YouTube and enter: Julie Donnelly, Pain and I’ll pop up.)

Let’s talk about muscles and why they will cause headaches (and a whole lot more!).

Which Muscles Cause Tension Headaches?

While there are many causes for headaches, such as stress, anxiety, depression, head injury, or anxiety, and life-threatening causes we won’t go into here, one type of headache that is caused by muscular tension is known as a muscle contraction tension headache.

As shown in the graphics above, muscle spasms (colored circles) will refer pain to your head, even when you don’t feel any discomfort where the spasm is actually occurring (as seen in the graphic on the bottom, the Sternocleidomastoid muscle).

(Please don’t get confused with the Posterior Deltoid showing in the right graphic, or the jaw muscles on the left graphic…I just didn’t know how to delete them from the graphic)

Muscles in the neck and scalp can become tense or contract in response to stress, depression, or anxiety, leading to tension headaches.  Fortunately, in many cases, simply pressing on the trigger points (the colored circles) will release the tension being felt in your head.

To prevent tension headaches, it is important to maintain good posture, practice relaxation techniques, and use a pillow that keeps your head, neck, and spine in a horizontal plane while you sleep.

Treating Tension Headaches Naturally

There are too many treatments for headaches to include all of them in this newsletter.  If you want to know them, I suggest you get one of my books, especially Pain-Free Living or The Pain-Free Athlete.

Meanwhile, I want to share an important Julstro self-treatment that you may find works well for tension headaches:

 

Place a ball such as the Perfect Ball (shown in picture) or a tennis ball, on the top of your shoulder.

 

 

 

Lean into the corner of a wall, as shown. headache relief shoulder muscle pressure using wall

 

Keep your head close to the wall to prevent the ball from slipping and landing on the floor.

 

Bend at your hips so your upper body goes up and down, causing the ball to roll along the top of your shoulder. This will treat both the levator scapulae and trapezius muscles – both are key muscles for tension headaches.

 

Be gentle with this treatment as it will cause pain to be felt in your head as you are doing the treatment.  Only use enough pressure that it “hurts so good.”

Do 5-6 passes on each side.  It can be repeated often during the day but give a little time between each session to allow the muscle to relax.

Drink a LOT of water so the acid that you’re pressing out of the muscle will get flushed out of your body.

This may look a bit confusing, but it’s simple when you follow the directions.  And the best part is, IT WORKS!

How to Learn the Other Treatments for Headaches

If you go to www.FlexibleAthlete.com you can read a lot more about muscles and pain.  You will also find my books and other self-treatment tools by pressing on Shop.

Have a Happy Summer!  Please remember to drink a lot of water to keep yourself hydrated.  😊

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

www.FlexibleAthlete.com

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

What Pillow Is Best For You?

Wake Up Each Morning Pain Free

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

What Pillow Is Best For You?

headacheThe way you sleep is often a key to discovering the cause of headaches and more. If you wake up with neck pain, a headache, or you suffer from ringing in your ears, dizziness, or ear pain, there is a good possibility that it may be caused by the way you are sleeping.

Your pillow may be the culprit, but it’s easy to find the best pillow for you, it just takes a little “investigation.” And the best pillow for you depends on how you sleep.

 

The Best Pillow If You Sleep On Your Side

Your head, neck, and spine need to always stay in a nice straight line, just as it is when you are standing up, but Sleeping On Sidethat takes a little thought and understanding of the way you sleep.  So, get comfy in your bed and then notice how your head is resting.

If you sleep on your side, your pillow needs to be just the right size, so your head doesn’t point down toward the mattress (your pillow is too soft) or up to the ceiling (your pillow is too thick). Either of these positions will make the muscles on the side of your neck stay in the contracted position for hours and pull your vertebrae in that direction, especially when you try to turn over to your other side

Your SCM Muscle May Cause Serious Problems

You also need to notice if you turn your head a bit, especially if you are turning into your pillow or turning your head up toward away from your pillow. In either of these two cases you will be causing your sternocleidomastoid (SCM for short) to be held shortened for hours.

Your SCM originates on your collarbone and inserts into the bone behind your ear, and when it contracts you turn your head to the opposite side. However, if the muscle is tight (for example, when you’ve held your head turned toward one side for an extended period of time) and then you bring your head back, so you are facing forward, the tight muscle will pull on the bone behind your ear and cause havoc.

The symptoms for a tight SCM are tinnitus (ringing in the ear), dizziness, loss of equilibrium, ear pain, headaches, pain in the eye and around the skull, pain at the top of the head, and even pain in the throat. Amazing! What’s even more amazing is that it’s rare that this muscle is considered when a medical professional is searching for the cause of your symptoms.

The Best Pillow If You Sleep On Your Back

If you sleep on your back, your head should be on the mattress (not propped up with a pillow) and you should have a tiny support (like a folded washcloth) under your neck, or you can have a wedge pillow that starts at your mid-back and gently raises your entire trunk and head up while still allowing your head and back to be in a straight line.

It’s always a challenge for people who toss and turn during the night, sometimes on their side and sometimes on their back.  The best thing I’ve found for this situation is to have the pillow below shoulder level so when you turn on your side your shoulder will automatically slide to the edge of the pillow while still supporting your head properly, and when you turn onto your back, the pillow will start at shoulder level so your head and neck are supported, but your head is being pushed in a way that causes your chin to move down to your chest.pain free living book

It’s tricky, but I can personally attest to the fact that it will work.  I can always tell when I’ve had my head tilted (I toss and turn during the night) because I will wake with a headache. When that happens I’m grateful that I know how to self-treat the muscles of my neck and shoulders, so the headache is eliminated quickly.  If you already have Treat Yourself to Pain Free Living you can self-treat all your neck and shoulder muscles to release the tension.

What If You Sleep On Your Stomach?

If you sleep on your stomach, this is the one position that is so bad that it behooves you to force yourself to change your position. Your head is turned to the side and held still for hours, putting a severe strain on all your cervical and upper thoracic vertebrae. Not only will this cause headaches, tinnitus, and a list of other pains, but it can cause problems down your entire spine. It can also impinge on the nerves that pass through the vertebrae on their way to your organs.

If you do sleep that way, let me know and I’ll give you some suggestions that work to change your habit of sleeping. It takes time and energy, but the results are worth the effort.

In every case, the way you sleep may cause neck pain that won’t go away until the pillow situation is resolved.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

www.FlexibleAthlete.com

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Is Stress Causing My Headaches?

“It’s Summertime, and the Living Is…Stressful”

headacheIt’s hot out, the birds are chirping, the air is pretty still, and the rains are often torrential.  It’s summer and under normal circumstances things slow down as people take vacations or just go to sit at the beach or pool.  Normally, we would be singing that old favorite, “It’s summertime and the living is easy”.

But this year is different! This summer’s song could be, “It’s summertime and the living is stressful.

We’ve all been affected by COVID19 in some manner, life is more complicated for most of us, and stress-levels have increased for a lot of people. Since stress often causes headache pain, today’s newsletter is going to focus on relieving stress headaches.

Stress Can Tighten Your Muscles

Constant stress can tie your muscles into knots.   It is important to do things to relieve the stress that the current events are placing on your body.  Maybe you aren’t going to the gym, but you can go out for a long, fast walk.  You could even bring some light hand weights and be pumping your arms as you walk.  If you have access to a pool, swimming is a great way to get exercise without stressing the body – with social distancing, of course.

There are several muscles that cause headaches. Unfortunately, it’s rare that anyone in the medical field will check out muscles while looking for the source of headache pain.

Is Stress Causing My Headaches?

As I said above, chronic stress can cause your muscles to tighten, and tight muscles can cause headaches. I will discuss two of the main offenders today.

Treating Temporalis MuscleOne muscle that causes headaches is called the Temporalis This muscle is the shape of a fan and is at the temples of your skull, behind your eyes and above your ears.  It not only causes headaches. It also causes pain into your top teeth!

To treat your Temporalis muscle, take your three middle fingers and press on the muscle as shown in the picture to the left.

Find the tender point, only pressing enough to feel it, but not so much that you want to faint. Hold the pressure for a minute and then move your fingers slightly up and down, without sliding on your skin.

Release the pressure for about 15 seconds and repeat this sequence until the pain is gone.

Do this treatment on both sides of your skull.  Stay still on any “hot spots” as they are the actual spasm that is causing the problem. You’ll be surprised at how the pain and tenderness will diminish as you continue to do the whole treatment for just a few minutes.

Levator Scapulae MuscleAnother key headache muscle is the Levator Scapulae, a muscle that originates on your cervical vertebrae and inserts into your shoulder blade.  When this muscle is in spasm it will pull your cervical vertebrae to the side and down and press the bone into your spinal cord at the base of your brain.  

Looking at how the levator scapulae muscle attaches to the vertebrae in your neck will explain why it is an important cause of stress headaches.

The levator scapulae originates on the top four cervical vertebrae (see small box) and inserts into the top of your shoulder blade.  When the muscle contracts normally you lift up your shoulders. The nickname for this muscle is “the shrug muscle” because of its action.

However, when it gets tight it will pull the insertions at your neck to the side and down. This causes the bones to press into your spinal cord, right at the base of your brain, and you get a severe headache!

Fortunately, you can treat the levator scapulae muscle, release the tension on the cervical vertebrae, and by treating the muscles in the back of your neck that become involved as the vertebrae move, you can stop the headache. It usually takes a while, maybe even two days. I wish I could tell you it’s immediate, but the important thing is you can stop the pain.

If you have suffered from headaches and your doctor has tested you to be sure it isn’t something more serious, then you’ll be pleased with the results of the Julstro™ self-treatments.

Relief From Stress Headaches Caused By A Tight Levator Scapula Muscle

Let me take you through the treatment step by step.

Relaxing Levator Scapulae MuscleStep 1: Relaxing the Spasms in Your Shoulders 

 You start by relaxing the spasms in your shoulders. While it can be awkward at first, you can very effectively treat your levator scapulae muscle by using a ball and pressing into the corner of a wall.

Put the Julstro Perfect ball directly on the top of your shoulder. Then lean straight into the corner of a wall.

Move slightly until you feel the pressure being focused on the knot at the top of your shoulder.

This treatment is for both your levator scapulae muscle and your trapezius muscle.

Step 2: Treating Your Levator Scapulae Muscle. 

Once you have loosened up the spasms in your shoulders, continue working on the levator scapulae muscle. You can also treat both by squeezing them with your fingers. We’ll demonstrate by treating your right shoulder. Naturally, you can do the same treatment on the opposite shoulder.

Bend your left arm and support you elbow with your right hand. Put your left three middle fingers on your right Treating Levator Scapulae Muscle shoulder at the point where the shoulder and neck meet. It helps if you place it so your thumb and pointer finger are close to your neck with the middle finger being the working finger right on the junction, just a bit toward the back. Your four fingers should be crooked at each joint of the hand and your palm should be flat against your body.

Staying in the same spot, relax your arm with your elbow close to the middle of your chest. In this position you will probably have your middle finger directly on the spasm point. All the strength from this move is coming from your upper arm, not from your fingers. To do that you will simply make sure that your middle finger is on the sore spot and then pull your elbow down toward the floor. Your finger will be like a hook that presses into the spasm.

If you feel your fingers getting tired, you are using your hand to give strength and not your arm. Once you feel the difference, it will be easy to do again. After you have found the trigger point and you are adding pressure to it, continue pressing into the knot.

Treating Levator Scapulae Muscle 2Next, keep your hand in the same spot, still pressing on the knot. Take your thumb, flip over onto the front of your shoulder, and push it straight into the muscle. This will move your thumb to a place that will now cause you to be pinching the knot.

You’ll feel if you have it right. You should have a fairly thick piece of muscle between the middle finger and the thumb. You can inch your three middle fingers back a bit if you find you aren’t gripping the entire thickness of the muscle.

If all you are feeling is skin between your fingertips, go back and try again. When you know you have a thick piece of muscle, grip tightly and release. Do this four times for 15 seconds each time.

 

Step 3: Stretching the Muscles in Your Shoulder

Now that you have worked out the knots, you are ready to stretch your shoulder muscles. Rotate your head a bit Stretching Levator Scapulae Muscleso your ear is angled toward the front of your chest. By doing this you will be adding additional stretch to the trigger point and releasing it at the same time.

Finally, continue holding the muscle and move your head as shown. Hold this for 15 seconds and release the pressure. When you finish, release your grip and shake out your shoulders. Then do it again, three more times, holding each stretch for 15 seconds.

You will really feel a great deal of relief when you ease the tension in this muscle.  This process will become easy after you play with it for a while and get the hang of squeezing the ball of knots that are on the top of your shoulder.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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