If you suffer from tension headaches, your posture may be to blame.
Around 90 percent of people in the United States experience at least one tension headache during their lives that could last for a whole week. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, leading to pain in the neck, forehead, and behind the eyes. The exact reason why people get these mild to moderate headaches is unknown, but poor posture, stress, and a lack of exercise are believed to be contributing factors that are within your control.
It may seem strange, but muscles that are under consistent strain or being stretched because of bad posture might be why your head hurts, especially if the postural problems are in your neck or shoulders. This could stem from sleeping in an unhealthy position or spending a lot of time with your head jutted forward and shoulders slumped, commonly seen in people who are frequently in front of a computer or in a car. For people who work with computers, eyestrain could also be a factor in tension headaches. Squinting to read text can make your scalp muscles tense and give you a headache.
Correcting your posture, using reading glasses, and trying a new sleeping position might all help to prevent headaches. Moving your keyboard closer to you so that your shoulders don’t roll forward while you reach for the keys and raising the screen up to eye level so that your head doesn’t tilt down or jut forward could help improve your posture.
What is good posture?
If looking from the side, your ears should align with your shoulders, your chin should be parallel to the floor, and your shoulder blades should be retracted. If your body is used to being in a position when your head is forward, in front of your shoulders, then you’ll likely have a hard time maintaining a correct position due to weak and tense muscles. Some simple exercises can help fix what is known as the ‘forward head’ position.
Learn to do simple craniocervical flexion exercise to end tension headaches
A 2006 study found that those who participated in a simple craniocervical flexion exercise with an exercise band experienced decrease in tension headaches after six weeks. To do this exercise, simply place the center of an exercise band against the back of your head while it’s in a forward position and then pull your head back as you hold each end of the band tightly so that your neck muscles are forced to work against the resistance. For best results, see you chiropractor or an exercise specialist about how often to do this exercise, which band to use, and how many times you should do it to avoid aggravating the problem.
To exercise without an exercise band, use the floor or a wall. Lie on your back with a rolled up towel behind your head and gently press the back of your head into the floor. If that’s too easy, try raising both of your arms as you press your head back and also push the backs of your shoulders into the floor. A more difficult variation is to perform the exercise seated with your back against a wall.
If you’re looking for an even simpler solution, put your head in the ideal position centered over your shoulders and then run a piece of tape across your forehead and back on both sides to the top of your spine. This way, if your head starts to slide forward you’ll feel the pull on your skin.
These tips may help prevent headaches, but even after a tension headache strikes, improving your posture can ease the pain. Hot baths or showers to relax your muscles or the application of a heating pad for five to 10 minutes may also offer some relief. Some people respond better to an ice pack, though cold temperatures trigger headaches in others.
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