I developed an expertise in headachesearly in my pain management practice. I truly believe that if I cannot get rid of a headache that there is something a little more serious that may be wrong, and I will refer to your doctor quickly. Honestly, 99%, meaning there was 1 out of 100 that stumped me, was caused by muscle tension. This muscle tension was caused by bad posture, prolonged shortening or overuse/misuse at work, play, sleep, ...…etc.
Typically, my line of questioning begins with:
1. Where does it hurt?
2. What type of work do you do?
3. What position do you sleep in?
4. How do you sit at your desk, couch, car…, ...etc.
5. What do you spend most of your time doing?
The following Case Study is a good example of finding a simple cure for a headache.
A Kindergarten Teacher, Linda, who was in her early 20’s came in for treatment for debilitating daily headaches. She appeared to be stressed. (No kidding.) Fidgety. Pacing. Linda had been trying different medications for several months. The meds would take the edge off of debilitating pain, but did not keep the headaches away.
We designed a treatment plan to target the nervous system and promote relaxation so that she could sleep better. The plan also included targeting specific muscles that are generally associated with her typical headache. During treatment, we discovered trigger pointsin her neck and shoulders that mimicked the headache pain.
Figuring out why the muscles had shortened in the first place was a mystery. My never-fail questions failed. Driving posture? Sleeping position? Work activities? So far, we were hitting a dead-end.
Linda is a teacher, and not just any teacher, she's a Kindergarten teacher. What could Linda be doing teaching kindergarteners that would shorten neck and shoulder muscles? Is there anything unusual that Linda would do during her day that other teachers might not do? One of my greatest joys is finding out the root cause of pain. It’s almost a euphoric feeling to know that I’'m on the right track, as ideas begin to take shape.
"When you talk to your children one-on-one and you want to look them in the eye, do you kneel on the floor or do you bend forward with your hand on your knees and look up at their face?"” I asked.
Her answer, "I bend forward and move my head so that I am looking up"?”
The ah-ha moment!
We lengthened the muscles, which had shortened with the awkward position. Linda started taking a knee when she talked to her kids. The headaches disappeared. No more need for medication. And Linda did not have to come back to see me.
Oh, and she started sleeping better. Good productive sleep took care of her stressed appearance, fidgety and pacing.