As a Chiropractor I’ve been treating migraine headaches in my practice for over 10 years, and I’ve found that making a few daily lifestyle changes can make a huge difference to the frequency and intensity of migraines. It is like the pressure of daily living gradually builds up to then give the migraine. If you can slow down this process then you should get a lot less of them.
We put far too much stress and strain on the joints and muscles of our neck and upper back in a modern technology filled life. Items like smartphones, tablets and computers make us look down for long periods which is detrimental to your neck and therefor your health.
From seeing thousands of patients, here are 5 of the best methods I use that are unlike many you may have seen or heard of before. They have been gained from years of experience treating actual patients with migraines and work with amazing results.
1. Stop Leaning Towards Your Computer Screen or Tablet
The spine has 3 natural curves and sitting at a 90 degree angle places increased load through these curves. The stress and strain then increases load and wear on the lower back discs.
Your bodies answer to this is to lean you forwards and place weight on your arms so you are leaning on the desk. In order to see, you then have to lift your chin which puts pressure on the top joints of your neck. The way you might know if you do this is the next time you are sitting at your desk, see if you can notice if you can feel any pressure at the back of your head?
Maybe ask a colleague to take a photo if you are brave enough to really see how you are sitting.
To fix this posture you need to recline back, put your feet on an angled step and make sure your chair is low enough to go under your desk. Rest your arms just past the elbow on the desk and make sure that the keyboard is further away. You should notice that in this position your shoulders are lower – so less tense – and the chair and desk are doing more work.
Research since 2006 tells us that reclining back reduces the load on your spine and helps you to relax back in the chair.
All in all, your workstation set-up is so important as you can spend many hours working and sitting in the same position.
2. Spiky Ball
Being told to relax during the day to relieve migraines is something my patients tell me they hear all the time from other health practitioners. This can be very hard to do if you have a busy job or home life.
I would love it if my patients would all start doing an hour of yoga/meditation to help them relax, but that’s not practical. Instead this method helps one days stress and strain from building up so much that you carry it through to the next day.
The muscles at the top of your upper back get tight with daily life and they could be a factor in migraines. You might even notice they are achy or find yourself rubbing them at the end or the day.
As such, I prefer the spiky ball method as it helps to relive tension, release the muscles toxin lactic acid, and research says it can relieve pain during a migraine.
Simply get a hard ball (ideally a bit bumpy) and place it behind your shoulder near your neck and lean back onto it. It should be tender at first and after a few seconds should ease. You can press multiple points and the muscle will start to relax. Using either the wall or lying down, both work effectively and the choice is yours. I recommend doing this before bed to reset all the stress from that day and to therefore settle into a more relaxed sleep.
3. Ice Therapy
This is the most important piece of advice I give patients in my clinic. Although research on ice is limited from a clinical point of view, I can tell you it has some of the best outcomes on pain and migraine frequency out of all the advice I give. It is also very safe, cheap and easy to do.
Ice is a natural anti-inflammatory which means it reduces swelling. Migraines have a lot of factors but a big part of them is due to swelling either around the joints or discs of the neck, so putting ice on your neck can naturally give relief. Heat is a natural inflammatory and in 10 years I have yet to find a patient who responds better to heat than ice.
Putting an ice pack or bag of peas at the top of the neck with a layer of clothing between you and the ice pack for 15-20 minutes could reduce your migraine frequency dramatically.
4. Work On Your Lower Back
I know this sounds like strange advice but you have to think of your body like a building. If there is weakness in your foundations, the top will fall over. Strength in your spine comes from the bottom up with your core muscles acting as your foundation.
Working the area around your pelvis, low back and lower abdominals helps to keep the whole spine in good posture and relive pain.
You can do a basic but clinically effective core strength exercise for the whole spine in a minute a day and I recommend the bird dog exercise to my patients because it is easy to do, works the whole spine and can also work on your balance. I always recommend that my patients do this exercise in the center of their bed as it makes the exercise unstable, therefore working much more of your core.
The joints in your body are like parts in a machine if they move then they oil and lubricate. If however through lifestyle they get stiff then they can start to wear out and rust. To remedy this, simply try doing 20 seconds of exercise with the 3 main areas of your spine, throughout the day, to relieve the tension in this area.
Two exercises for this are simply turning your neck from side to side with a very slight look down. This stretches out the back of the neck. Repeat this nice and slowly 2-3 times. Then roll big circles with your shoulders back and forth again 2-3 times. If you can do that every hour it can make you so much more flexible.
Movement is the key to keeping your joints healthier and more flexible. Having an alert set-up on your computer that makes you do timed exercises is worth it for this very reason. Making simple changes like getting up to get a glass of water or herbal tea regularly helps keep you flexible.
Going to see a colleague instead of emailing them across the office also helps to get you more active in the day without spending a lot of time doing it. Make small shifts and before you know it you are more active, flexible and have less pain.
Migraines effect a significant number of people and a modern stress filled lifestyle is a major factor. Making small changes too your lifestyle should reduce the frequency of these migraines and potentially make them less intense.
As part of your lifestyle changes and/or if you still find yourself in pain, as a Chiropractor I would recommend you seek professional help. Whether that is Chiropractic care, acupuncture, or cupping therapy.
Alongside any therapy, having the perfect posture is also key to helping reduce pain. The Posture Solution is our expert-designed posture program that will fix your posture and improve pain in less than 90 days. Learn more here…