Headaches! They’re such a pain in the…well, the head!
This week we will take a look at how/why your upper traps/upper shoulder muscles (see figure 1) cause headaches and what can be done.
As discussed in week one, anterior head carriage or holding your head in front of your shoulders, can strain the suboccipitals. It also puts great demand on the traps. Another major strain on the traps is improper breathing. This can be surprising for a lot of people. Most have never thought about whether they are breathing properly or not. The simple fact that you are upright and reading this should be proof enough that you know how to breathe; shouldn’t it? Unfortunately, no.
Fig. 1 rdhmag.com
Through poor posture and being in stressful situations day in and day out, we end up using our upper traps to breathe. This is problematic because the upper trap is meant to be a secondary breathing muscle. It only likes to help you breathe for short periods like running after that $20
bill that just blew out of your hand or
when running from a lion. But when it is asked to help you breathe 24/7 it is like asking Usain Bolt to run a marathon. He likely can do it, but it’s going to beat him up pretty badly. Using the upper traps as the primary breathing muscle causes adhesions and trigger points in the muscle that refer pain to the head that wraps around the ear to just behind the eye, in what we like to call the “Ram’s Horn Pattern.” (see figure 2)
Fig. 2 namtpt.wildapricot.org
To fix this we teach people to breathe with their diaphragm, a dome shaped muscle just above your stomach and directly below your lungs (see figure 3).
The exercise is to place a hand on your stomach and a hand on your chest. When you breathe in, the hand on your stomach should be the only hand that moves. The hand on your chest should not move. This can be a frustrating change of habit and will take a couple weeks to a month to achieve, but it’s doable. To help with this, place a sticker on your computer or wear a rubber band and every time you see it, check to see how you are breathing. If you’re breathing improperly, do the exercise and correct it.
Fig 3. fitnessgenes.com/blog/diaphragm
If this doesn’t fully resolve your issue, you are having a hard time figuring it out, or you know someone that might benefit from our services, be sure to schedule from our website www.activehealthKC.com or call 913-341-1200.