Headaches are a frequent reason for people to seek osteopathic care and many visits to osteopaths are motivated by this type of pain. While almost all of us experience the occasional headache, frequent recurring headache can significantly impact on your health and enjoyment of life.
Some headaches need to be taken seriously. For example, if it is a new type of headache you’ve never experienced previously or is accompanied by sensitivity to light, sound or accompanied by severe nausea/vomiting.
There are many reasons for headache and yet with lockdown, it’s most likely you have adopted a new work posture at home. You are also probably in endless Zoom meetings and not getting up from your computer as often as you did in the office. Many headaches arise from the way you use your body or changes in the way you use your body. This is good news because osteopaths can be very helpful with these issues!
A previous blog (that you can find here) demonstrated a good work-from-home set up and some exercises to help with neck-related headache. However, your jaw should also be assessed when considering triggers for recurrent headaches.
I’ve discussed in another blog (that you can find here) how clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth while sleeping or regularly chewing gum can trigger or exacerbate recurrent headaches. Below are a couple of exercises that can help you improve your jaw health:
This is a beautiful stretch for the major chewing muscle of the jaw. If you’re prone to clenching your jaw or have had a stressful day in front of the computer, this will feel very relaxing.
When the jaw muscles are tense, the opening and closing of your jaw can be affected, and irritation in the tissues around your jaw, neck and head can develop pain. This simple exercise can ease this irritation:
1. Place your middle fingers in the hollow below your ears and behind your jaw;
2. Gently hold your tongue to the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth;
3. Keeping gentle pressure on the back of the jaw with your fingers, slowly open and close your jaw in your pain-free zone
4. It’s best to perform this exercise after brushing your teeth when you are standing in front of a mirror to watch for and minimise, any jaw deviation.
5. Repeat the opening and closing up to 10 times, if no pain. Ideally morning and night to improve how your jaw moves.
Persistent headaches can also cause sensitivity to headache triggers creating a “vicious circle” that precipitates more severe headaches or more frequent headaches. So, it is vital to properly manage your headaches to avoid them becoming chronic episodes in your life.
Osteopaths can provide evidence-based management advice as well as hands-on treatment to help manage and improve chronic headaches. If we think your headache is something more serious rest assured, we will advise and discuss with you a referral to the most appropriate health professional for further headache care.