By Professional Physical Therapy
The holiday season, with its festive cheer and family gatherings, can also bring about stress and tension that may lead to debilitating headaches. Tension headaches are a common ailment experienced by many during this busy time. Understanding how they feel, what causes them, and effective methods to alleviate the pain is essential for a relaxing and enjoyable holiday. We will explore the world of tension headaches and practical tips for relief, including a few massage techniques you can do at home for quick relief. We will also discuss how physical therapists can play a pivotal role in alleviating tension headaches.
Understanding Tension Headaches
Tension headaches are characterized by a dull, aching pain, often described as a tight band around the head or pressure on both sides of the head. These headaches can be episodic or chronic, and their intensity may vary from mild to severe. Stress, poor posture, muscle tension, and lack of sleep are common triggers for tension headaches. During the holidays, the pressure to create the perfect celebration, coupled with disrupted routines, can exacerbate these symptoms.
Causes of Tension Headaches
- Stress and Anxiety: High-stress levels can lead to muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, and scalp, triggering tension headaches.
- Poor Posture: Prolonged sitting can strain the neck and shoulder muscles, leading to tension headaches.
- Eye Strain: Increased screen time, whether from holiday shopping online or binge-watching movies, can strain the eyes and contribute to headaches.
- Dehydration and Lack of Sleep: Irregular sleep patterns and insufficient hydration can make the body more susceptible to headaches.
Tips to Relieve Tension Headaches
- Stress Management: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to reduce stress and muscle tension.
- Improve Posture: Be mindful of your posture while sitting and standing. Use ergonomic chairs and maintain a straight spine to prevent strain on your neck and shoulders.
- Limit Screen Time: Take regular breaks from screens to relax your eyes. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away.
- Stay Hydrated and Get Adequate Sleep: Drink plenty of water throughout the day and ensure you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night to support overall health and reduce headache triggers.
Exercises to Get Headache Relief in Seconds
Professional PT’s Allison McNamara PT, DPT shares 5 exercises to help relieve a tension-type headache. Apply gentle pressure when doing the exercises and try each one 5 times. Repeat, as necessary.
1. Place fingers past each eyebrow, make circles forward and backward.
2. Place fingers over ears, push up and back.
3. Place fingers in front of head, push down and back.
4. Take thumbs in back of head, make circles inward and outward.
5. Cup your chin with hand and put the other hand in back of your head, lift and push your chin back.
How Physical Therapists Can Provide Relief from Headaches
Physical therapists can play a pivotal role in alleviating headaches, empowering individuals to enjoy the season to its fullest. Physical therapists possess in-depth knowledge of the musculoskeletal system, allowing them to identify the root causes of tension headaches. Through comprehensive assessments, they can pinpoint muscle imbalances, poor posture, and other contributing factors. With this understanding, therapists develop personalized treatment plans that address specific concerns, providing targeted relief.
A physical therapist treatment plan for headaches may include:
- Manual Therapy: Therapists use hands-on techniques that can:
- Relieve joint and muscle stiffness.
- Increase mobility of the head and neck.
- Decrease muscle tension and spasms.
- Improve muscle performance.
- Try dry needling for certain types of headaches.
- Therapeutic Exercises: PTs can help boost flexibility in the upper body with targeted exercises to strengthen neck and shoulder muscles. The more you are able to move these muscle groups, the less stress you will be putting on them.
- Posture Training: Therapists can assess your normal posture when you sit or stand and determine if you have weak muscles that contributes to muscle strain. If so, strengthening moves for your core, back and neck can be incorporated into the treatment plan. You will also learn how to hold the correct positions for sitting, standing, and walking.
- Relaxation Techniques: Physical therapists teach relaxation exercises and stress management techniques to alleviate muscle tension and promote relaxation.
- Education: Educating patients has been helpful in lessening the severity and/or frequency of headaches. A therapist can teach you how to identify your specific triggers (such as diet, sleep, movement habits, stressors, hydration). They can also offer education on creating an ergonomic workspace and adjusting daily activities to reduce strain on the body.
By incorporating these tips and seeking professional physical therapy guidance, you can enjoy a headache-free holiday season. Remember, it’s essential to listen to your body, prioritize self-care, and seek help from qualified professionals when needed.
If you are experiencing headaches or need help with any type of pain, visit one of our Professional Physical Therapy clinics near you to get started. Request an appointment for a consultation so you can feel better and get back to doing the things you love. Here’s to a joyful and headache-free holiday season!