The Headache Clinic
The Headache Clinic
Summer

You have finally hit the road to head away on a family holiday after some last-minute frantic packing. Five minutes down the road, the kids are screaming in the back seat, the sun is pouring in through the windscreen, and you can’t find your drink bottle… maybe it’s still on the bench?

At this time of year, so many of our triggers are in full force. Late nights, alcohol, chocolate, travel, heat and lets not forget trying to keep the peace with the family. We are vulnerable to headache and migraine over the holiday period, and the last place you want to spend your holiday is in a dark, cool room.

To better understand how we can help take control of our headaches and migraines, we first need to know what is happening. 

What causes headache and migraine?

The common underlying condition in headache and migraine is a sensitised brainstem. Think of this like a decreased threshold. When the brainstem is sensitised, your tolerance to normal events is decreased. That’s why you want to scream when you spill your coffee, or the kids are arguing. Our tolerance to stress, tiredness, and even dehydration is decreased when our brainstem is sensitised.

The great news here is that the structures at the top of the neck have a direct connection to the brainstem and can be the driver of our sensitivity. By decreasing the strain at the top of the neck, you can reduce your sensitivity and improve your tolerance! Hallelujah!

Reducing the impact of headache and migraine

So what can you do to improve your tolerance to stress and decrease your risk of headache and migraine this summer?

  • Sleep routine - Be consistent. Try to get to bed at a reasonable hour and get out of bed at the same time each day. If you find you frequently wake during the night or are a light sleeper, consider taking a high-quality magnesium supplement.
  • Take a walk - Walking is not just good for your mental health and overall wellbeing, it can also significantly improve your headache. Walk tall and be nosey and check out what is happening around you. This is a nice gentle movement for the top of your neck and can take away some of the strain from scrolling through your phone.
  • Device use - Take breaks every 30 minutes and think about how you are positioned when using it. Sitting slumped forward with your head hanging over your phone or lying on your back with pillows stacked behind your head will increase the pressure at the top of the neck and put you at high risk of headache or migraine.
  • Try some meditation - Slow down that busy brain! There are lots of apps with guided meditations or simply find a secluded spot to sit and bask in the quietness. It’s amazing how just five minutes of quiet can give you the ability to get through. 
  • Breathing - Your belly should rise and fall with each breath. Focus on taking slow breaths that fill to the bottom of your lungs and slowly exhale.
  • Sit tall - Having great posture decreases the loading through the top of the neck. This can directly influence the sensitivity into the brainstem. When you have been sitting for 30 minutes, change position or get up and move.
  • Have fun – Laughter activates the parasympathetic nervous system (our ‘rest and digest’ system) and is linked with a healthy tone in the vagus nerve. Ten minutes of laughter a day is all it takes!

We can’t help with the chaos that comes with having family at home, but we can help take the headache out of summer.

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