Vice like, crushing, pulse pounding, and griping, are all good descriptive words for headache pain. What a nuissance, for anybody who knows it. Especially when you or you’re significant other uses the old familiar 6 word phrase. You know, "not tonight, I got a headache" one.
But on a serious note, headaches can and do interfere with doing the things we love to do, especially if you tend to get them frequently.
Taking advil and other over the counter medication becomes a habitual occurence far too often, and many times, doesn’t even help anyways. The headaches keep coming back, and you’re probably looking for a nice alternative to manage your headache on your own.
Muscle tension along with abnormal spinal joints, both occurrying in the neck, are well documented causes of both migraine and tension headaches.
With this in mind, many choices are available when considering headache treatments whether it’s a tension-type or migraine type. So the question then becomes "which of the many options offer the best benefit"?
Well, whatever way one decides to manage headache pain, it stands to reason that focusing on addressing in the very least, muscles and joints in the neck, should be part of the game plan. Right????
Well, one study compared how effective physical therapy (PT) to that of relaxation and thermal biofeedback (RTB). Biofeedback is basically techniques that trains people to improve their health by teaching them to control involuntarily body functions, like heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and skin temperature. Very similar to meditation techniques.
In this particular study, both groups were treated using one of these approaches, and if at least a 50% improvement was not achieved, the other form of treatment was then utilized. Results were calculated at 3, 6, and 12 month timeframes.
The PT group of 30 females used standard physical therapy approaches that included:
• Posture correction for alignment of head and spine
• Cervical range of motion for neck and shoulders
• Isometric strengthening of the neck
• Flare-up management techniques
• Active self mobilization of the spine
• Whole body stretching
The goal was to target the muscles in the neck that were painful, tight, rigid, and tense. Those in this group were to perform the above twice per day for 30 min.
The RTB group were instructed in relaxation and thermal biofeedback (RTB) treatment that focused on muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and the use of a thermal feedback device that determines when the subject’s temperature changes telling them if they are successfully relaxing.
The participants were to practice at home and utilized audiotapes for relaxation and monitor success with the portable biofeedback unit.
Using the PT approaches, only 13% reported a successful outcome compared to 51% in the RTB group. In the follow-up of 3, 6 and 12 months, both groups reported continued benefit. Now I know, 13% doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but wait, let me explain.
These findings suggest that treatments that focus on muscle tension reduction (such as the RTB and the PT group) might result in a better outcome compared to only addressing posture, range of motion and flexibility,but both taken toghether are going to help more then half the people who do them.
But, I would also add, the it also depends on what posture exercises, range of motion exercises and flexibility exercises are being recommended. I guarantee and have seen in practice over and over again, what posture, range of motion and flexibility exercises that are super succesful for helping headaches.
So it is very important to learn the proper exercises when trying to manage your headache pain. When teaching patients to self-manage their condition by instruction and training, the greater the likelihood is for a successful outcome.
Self Management should focus on-management training procedures including (but not limited to) the training of the use of ice vs. heat, exercises, proper methods of bending and lifting, as well as posture and strength. The use and instruction of relaxation is also a commonly recommended form of care, which this study found to be most beneficial.
If your wondering where to learn these specific posture, range of motion and flexibilty exercises, that are super easy to do, and does’nt actually require going 3 times per week to the chiropractor or physical therapist office, then keep posted on my website where I post these techniques throughout these pages, and have developed my lose the neck pain system is completely based.
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