Do the holidays give you a headache — literally? Around the holidays, some people suffer from increased headaches, along with muscle tension or pain in the upper, back, shoulders, jaw or neck that worsens before or during their headache. What these sufferers don’t realize is that poor posture is contributing to their headaches.
Believe it or not, actual activities associated with the holidays – like baking, shopping, cleaning, writing Christmas cards and wrapping gifts – increases upper body activity that is tedious in nature. This can, in turn, lead to physical pain and headaches for many. Why is this so? When weaker muscles are on overload and strained, they feed pain signals that can cause a headache, which can lead to the sufferer feeling even more stress because it slows them down.
A headache is a pain that occurs in any part of the head. Forty-five million Americans complain of headaches each year. A tension headache is the most common type of headache, and 90 percent of the population has suffered from one at some time. Causes can be from fatigue, stress, a neck or jaw problem or even poor posture. The alignment of your spine is an important component of your overall muscle function.
Around the holidays, if you find yourself suffering from an increased number of headaches, consider your posture. When your posture is ‘slouched,’ as it frequently is when you are completing any of the above activities, the muscles in your upper body don’t work efficiently.
In addition, if your rotator cuff — a group of small muscles surrounding the shoulder — is weak, your body will overcompensate by using other muscles in your neck or back to help you move your arm overhead. This unusual and dysfunctional pattern of movements can cause strain on the upper body and trigger a headache.
How can you strengthen your muscles and improve your posture to get through the holidays with less pain?
- Avoid Overuse – Take frequent breaks while baking, wrapping, cleaning, etc., which will allow some rest time for your muscles. Deep breathing techniques will help you and allow more oxygen to travel to your tissues. If you are sitting in a chair and leaning over while writing Christmas cards for example, be sure to stand up and change positions before beginning again.
- Be Aware – Take note of your body’s position, which will help prevent problems in the first place. Put objects you need, like tape, scissors, bows, gifts, etc., near you so that when you have to lift them, your body is not reaching for them in an awkward position. It’s especially important lift and carry heavy objects using your legs. If you don’t feel you are strong enough to carry that load of wood for the fire, ask for help!
- Posture Check – Now that you are aware that a poor posture can lead to muscle pain and a headache, be sure to check your posture periodically. Performing quick strengthening exercises is also wise. To activate the correct scapular muscles and open the chest up to decrease tightness in the pectoral region, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull them down. You take pressure off the rotator cuff muscles and allow your muscles to work more efficiently by avoiding the unattractive rounded ‘shoulder slump’ position.
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Our licensed therapists are trained in the newest, evidence-based techniques from around the world, combining the best of traditional physical therapy with expert hands-on release of muscle and joint tension. Not only does our therapy bring better results, it also just feels better.
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