15 Jan Tension Headache Relief and The Fix For Migraines
Tension-Type Headaches And Migraines – What Is The Difference?
The type of headache you are having will often determine how much relief you can find for yourself with stretching/exercise or relief strategies. That’s right, not all headaches are created equal!
The international headache guidelines provide diagnostic criteria for literally dozens and dozens of different types of headaches: ranging from your typical tension-type headache to headache attributable to ingestion or inhalation of a cold stimulus and other ones that I and other physicians had never heard of and will never encounter in practice.
I think those of us that have suffered from headaches and migraines inherently know that there are different types of headaches that are caused by different anatomy, physiology, and triggers. The point and what I want to
help you with is being able to self-identify what type of headache you are having so that you can initially get symptomatic relief… and then ultimately fix the underlying problem.
To keep things as simple as possible, the vast majority of headaches that we see in our office are going to be described as either migraines or tension-type/cervicogenic [from the neck] headaches (TTCH). While an unhealthy neck and spine can be a tremendous contributor to migraines, for our discussion today think of TTCH as the result of very tense neck and shoulder muscles that are most often the consequence of an unhealthy spine and/or external stressors on the body.
The tension that you feel in your neck and shoulder muscles after a stressful situation, multiples by a few factors, can irritate the nerves of the neck and scalp to produce head pain. And voila, you have a headache.
So what is the difference in terms of how they feel?
Tension-type and cervicogenic headaches typically are of mild-moderate intensity, feel like pressure or tightness, and are non-pulsating like a tight band around the skull. They usually occur bilaterally on both sides of the skull without nausea, vomiting, can last for minutes to days, are often associated with neck pain, and perhaps most important [for you!], are not worsened by exercise!
If you can stretch or massage the correct muscles and joints that are acutely contributing to the headache, these TTCH often get better!
Migraines are often the “opposite” in many dimensions: they are usually moderate to very severe in intensity, one-sided, pulsating, sometimes occur with visual or other sensory changes called “aura” and/or nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light/sound, and are worsened by exercise
Migraines leave you wanting to lie down in a dark room where no amount of stretching helps acutely.
Control And Relief Of Tension-Type Headaches
Knowing this latter difference between a TTCH and a migraine can be really important because it gives you the power and authority to help manage your symptoms when they arise!
The stretches I show in the video below and THIS Instagram post will help to target many of the most frequent anatomical culprits that contribute to tension-type and cervicogenic headaches.
If you are looking for more than symptom relief and want to fix your headaches than there are two important caveats to understand!
Firstly, understanding the external stressors that impact your body, spine and nervous system and contribute to all forms of headaches is a must. For me, a lack of sleep or sleeping on a lousy pillow affects my spine to the point that I often will get a headache. The lack of sleep, stress, red wine, the poor pillow is NOT the cause of the headache but just an important factor that changes your body just like a poor diet does not cause a heart attack but rather leads to changes over time that clog your arteries and starve the heart of oxygen.
The point is that if you can identify and remove/reduce the stressors that head to your headaches you are part way to fixing the underlying problem.
The second and maybe most important caveat: if there is an underlying change in the body that is the actual cause of the headache then that underlying core problem must be fixed. Headaches, like all other symptoms are ultimately the body’s signal to tell you that something is wrong and needs fixing. In the case of migraines, tension-type, cervicogenic headaches and more, that underlying problem is the spine, the nerves it protects and the muscles and other tissues that attach to it.
These exercises should help you with your headaches but if they keep coming back and you want to learn how we start to go about fixing the underlying core problem that contributes to headaches then read THIS.