Is the Pandemic Giving You Headaches?
By Lisa Simon
You test negative for COVID, you are one of the lucky ones still employed, but still you feel stressed. You ask yourself, why am I still getting so many headaches? Is this you? If so, read on. If not, pay attention anyway as it could become you or could happen to someone you care about.
Headaches can be caused by many things, but stress is one of the top risk factors that can lead to frequent headaches. Your neck and shoulders, even your upper back feels tighter as the day goes on. You try to get your beauty rest and wake up feeling like you "slept wrong," and even if you wake up without tension, you know it's going to continue throughout the day, and the pain starts creeping up to the back of your head, maybe the temples or behind the eyes.
I, along with all the other ProActive therapists treat headaches a lot, and we can tell you that many of them are coming from your neck! So, what are you going to do about it?
1) Make sure you are not constantly looking down at your electronics through out the day. Just changing this one behavior can make all the difference. Place your phone, book or screen at eye level instead of placing it on your lap. This will keep you from overworking your neck and shoulder muscles. You will keep the stress off your neck and the headaches from tension are less likely to come on.
2) Sit in a well-supported chair; try not to slump when you sit. Although sitting slouched can be comfortable at first, it can wreak havoc on your spine and before you know, you'll be seeking your PT for pain relief! To help keep your head in a good position, practice squeezing your shoulder blades together several times and do it every several hours. Good posture really does help prevent neck pain and headaches!
3) Drink lots of water; it keeps the discs between each of your vertebrae nice and juicy; the discs are what keep us tall. Ever wonder why you get shorter as you get older? We lose the water in the discs a.k.a the shock absorbers of our spine.
4) Sleep with the right pillow so you don't wake up with a "crick" in your neck. Your head should feel supported but not too flexed. Sleeping with several pillows under your head is not great in the long run. A pillow with foam memory or a pillow with a cervical roll in the bottom of the pillowcase will support your neck whether you sleep on your back or side. Avoid sleeping on your stomach as it puts a lot of stress on the neck.
5) BREATHE! That's right. But breathe deeply especially if you notice you are stressed. Maybe you feel the shoulders rising, butterflies in your stomach, rapid heartbeat, palm sweating? That is stress and even when you aren't aware of it, your body responds. Make sure you breathe deeply and slowly; it will tell your central nervous system to calm down, and your body will begin to relax. Our therapists recommend an easy-to-follow technique that's a charm for our patients. Breathe in deeply on the count of 4 seconds, hold your breath for 5 and exhale all your air out for 6. Repeat several times and do this whenever you feel your body tensing up!