The Posture Headache and Why Its Such a Pain in the Neck! By Nicole DePalma MS, LMT Does the attached photo look like your posture when you see yourself from the side view? Or has anyone ever …
The Posture Headache and Why Its Such a Pain in the Neck!
By Nicole DePalma MS, LMT
Does the attached photo look like your posture when you see yourself from the side view? Or has anyone ever mentioned to you that it seems your head gets into a room before the rest of your body does?!! If so, this type of chronic posture can cause headaches due to muscular tension.
In the Massage Therapist world, we’ve come to call this issue “Tech Neck” because we see so many people using devices such as the computer, cell phone, or even driving with this type of upper body slump, and the head being extended out in front of the spine. Some doctors call this posture the “C-Curve” with its extended neck, collapsed chest, and tucked under tailbone.
When we constantly keep our spines in this type of posture, the chest and front neck muscles, along with the base of the skull and jaw muscles get tight, and the back of the neck muscles, upper and mid back muscles get weak. The abdominals lose tone and endurance, putting excess strain on the mid and low back areas, as well. Because of the extension forward of the neck, there’s a “pinching” of the seven neck (cervical) vertebrae. Since our nerve roots to our arms, hands, and fingers exit out from the spinal cord in-between these seven vertebrae, there can be numbness, tingling, or burning sensations to our shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers besides the headache stemming from poor posture.
We also have a tendency to ride our shoulders up toward our ears, and this is another reason why we experience neck and shoulder tension. These muscle groups that are constantly held in misaligned posture are going to help to create nerve pain to the head area, and…wait for it…a headache ensues. Unfortunately, another by-product of this type of posture is a premature “hump” around the shoulders.
Other contributing factors to headache are: Glare from computer and other tech devices’ screens Dehydration Irregular eating and sleeping patterns Loud, continuous noise Medications Food sensitivities Dental or sinus issues Viral infections Hormone imbalances Too severe, or lack of physical activity Recreational drug and alcohol use Anxiety and stress One of the first steps we can take to alleviate postural headaches is to bring the head back into alignment with the rest of the spine. This is done by lining up the flap in front of the ear hole with the center of the base of the neck when looking at yourself from the side. Its great if you can have someone take a look at you, and if needed help to move your head into this position so you can see and feel the correct head and neck placement.
Then, activate your upper back muscles. You don’t want to throw yourself into a “military posture” with the chest puffed out, but use your back muscles to slide your shoulder blades down over your ribs and gently open your collar bones up to help open the chest out of a slouch.
Thirdly, engage your abdominals by imagining you can draw your navel into the back of your pelvis. This action alone takes so much strain off the low back while improving posture at the same time. Now, you’ll be able to draw in deeper breaths (shallow breathing is another cause of headaches) because the spine is lengthened, the head and neck are in alignment, and the rib cage is opened up, ready to allow those lungs to fill with air.
Check yourself regularly while you’re on the computer, your cell phone, driving, or just going about your daily tasks and movements. If you find you could drive your car with your chin, you’ll know you’ve got a good case of the “C-Curve” going on! See if you can draw the back of your skull toward your headrest. Hold your cell phone up in alignment with your eyes to keep your chin level, not constantly looking downward at the phone. Try not to peer into your computer screen while you work, again, keeping your head lined up over the base of your neck. Do the same while watching TV or eating if you can. All of these posture remedies can help to alleviate headaches, and backaches to boot.
Some other useful tips may be to have your workstation or office ergonomically corrected so that your desk, computer, and desk chair are adapted to your body. Some folks find that a sitting to standing desk has been a great help with posture, and not peering into the computer screen as much as they would if they were constantly sitting at a desk. Try to incorporate more stretching into your day. Simply by doing some shoulder rolls, rotating your spine, or moving your rib cage from side to side will give tense muscles a “breather”, and help to put them into a more aligned, and correct posture pattern. Even that deep breath we mentioned a bit ago can help to ease tight muscles around the shoulders, neck, jaw, and face.
If you seem to find that headaches are more frequent , last longer, or are more intense, please visit your Health Care Provider for a diagnosis of what those symptoms may mean. Headaches are never pleasant, but there are things we can do to help ease symptoms or eliminate them altogether. Good posture is a great tool in the “get rid of headaches toolbox”. Cheers and Be Well.