Neck pain can be characterised by a constant ache in the base of the skull and down the neck into the upper back, whilst headaches can extend upward over the head to the back of the eye on one or both sides. But there is something you can do about them! We would like to share with you some of the most common causes of neck pain and how they can be overcome. These tips work for the short and long term.
3 Elements of Good Posture
1) The lower back: Put your hands on your hips and slouch down in your chair, now sit all the way upright by pushing your hips forward and arching your lower back. Come to the halfway point between these two extremes – this is the neutral lumbar position
2) Shoulder blade position: bring your shoulder blades all the way forward – really get lazy, now bring them all the way back like you’d do if you were rowing – again find the half way position and bring them back about 5% more.
3) Finally, neck posture: Tuck your chin down giving yourself a double chin, then come back up to relaxed position – now tuck down only about 10% of that double chin position. In addition, pull your head back slightly as if you were sitting against a wall and need to make the back of your head touch the wall – don’t worry about bringing it all the way back to the wall if it’s uncomfortable, only bring it back slightly to a comfortable position that is more than you would normally sit.
Now that you’re in a good postural position – this is how it relates to your headache: Research has demonstrated the link between the scapula position and neck tightness. Primarily, if your shoulder blades (scapulae) are slouching forward and downward then you’re more likely to experience pulling of the levator scapulae and trapezius muscles on the neck and base of the skull, which may lead to headache symptoms.
Mastering the art of keeping your scapulae back will get rid of most postural headaches within 1 day! You may not like holding your shoulder blades back initially; it can be difficult and strenuous and you may be tempted to revert to your poor posture, but don’t! If you want to get rid of a headache, you need to work at the source!
Next we need to build to do an hourly movement of looking over your left and right shoulders as well as up and down to loosen up. Here are three great and very easy exercises to do that will get rid of the postural headache and keep them away.
1. Horizontal Abductions with a resistance band: Stand with your back against a wall hold your arms straight out in front. Have your hands about 15cm apart. With a resistance band between your hands, pull your arms outward and away from each other whilst feeling your shoulder blades flatten against the wall behind your back. Perform 3×6.
2. Rows: Wrap the band around a post at waist height. Grasp the ends of the bands and pull the bands toward your stomach drawing your shoulder blades back and together at the same time. Hold and slowly return over 2 seconds. Perform 3×10.
3. Shrugs: Stand with your shoulder blades back slightly as described in the ideal posture above. Shrug your shoulders all the way up and feel your upper trapezius contract, relax down to half way then return up again. Perform 3×6. If you have dumbbells or access to some weights, bring in about 3-5kg ensuring your shoulders can still get to as high up as they did without weight – if not, the dumbbell is too much.
By doing these simple exercises three times per week, in addition to keeping the shoulder blades back, you will notice a reduction in your headaches within 1 day! Remember though that the muscles described above; the levator scapulae, the trapezius as well as the deep neck muscles, will still be tight so you may need to visit your friendly physio to help release these if symptoms persist.
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. Yes the headaches will come back if you slouch, so no slouching!