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Heap of paper works, relenting computer hours, long drives, irrepressible video games plus wrong posture, stress, sleep deprivation... these are only a few of the common causes that drive our body, specially the head and the neck, too hard. Fits of aches and pains are more often the troublesome effects which hinder our daily activities. Hence, these add up to the pile of unfinished tasks and existing pressure.
KNOWN POSSIBLE CAUSES OF HEADACHES
AND NECK PAINS
Using the computer, playing with video games or watching the television- holding your head in one position for a long time (medically speaking, an hour a day is the only allowable time you have to spend with these activities)
Dehydration due to excessive exercise or preoccupation with work
Too little sleep or sudden changes in sleeping patterns
Visual problems (especially those with known visual condition and on correction glasses without regular consultation with the ophthalmologist)
Menstruation and hormonal changes (like during pregnancy or pre-/menopausal period)
Smelling strong odors such as perfume, smoke, fumes or unwashed textiles
Being under a lot of stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, overexertion or chronic overwork
Having a minor head or neck injury, even years back
Taking a long trip in a car or other vehicles
Awkward position and cold environment during sleep
Clenching of the jaw or bruxism (teeth grinding) which usually occurs during sleep
Listening to loud music
Alcohol, cigarette smoking or illicit drug use
Certain medications (eg., oral contraceptive pills, dipyridamole, antibiotics like ciprofloxacin, metronidazole and clarithromycin, salbutamol, simvastatin, antihypertensives like clonidine, hydralazine, telmisartan, felodipine, amlodipine and metropolol, antacids like omeprazole and many more)
Infections of the ear, throat, gums, teeth and sinuses or flu and common coldDue to the nature of daily activities, work and interests at present, the head and neck are the most common areas of complaint. These are important points that should be managed at once because overlooking the pain can precipitate a more serious medical condition.
Usually, poor neck posture or "forward head position" sets off head and neck tension, then to pain. In fact according to the January 1994 issue of the American Journal of Pain Management, "for every inch that the head moves forward in posture, it increases the weight of the head on the neck by 10 pounds." This inescapable improper posture stiffens the muscles of the neck. When the muscles remain fixed in a
CERTAIN FOODS AND DRINKS (when taken in excess) CAUSE HEADACHE
Aspartame and Monosodium glutamate (MSG): food additives and enhance food flavor usually found in Chinese dishes and junk foods
Foods containing amino acid tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken liver, figs, and some beans)
Nuts and their products (like peanut butter)
Some fruits (like avocado, banana, and citrus)
Onion and garlic
Dairy products (like cheese, yoghurt, ice cream)
Meats containing nitrates (ham, salami, lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausages and other processed or cured meats)
Fermented or pickled foods
Fatty or fried foods
Foods and beverages containing caffeine (like coffee, tea, chocolate and soda certain position, blood circulation decreases, muscles tire (due to accumulation of lactic acid in muscle fibers), and tasks become ill at ease to perform. As what he mentioned in his book "How to Get Permanent Relief From Chronic Tension Headaches", Paul Bacho, a certified athletic trainer said that, "tight and spasmed muscles in your neck, shoulders and upper back cause your headaches by irritating nerve endings and restricting blood flow to the back of your head".
So worry less, here are some tips to beat those bouts of pains and aches (which you could do at home and while at work):
1 Stop working for a moment, take a deep breath, lie down and give your neck muscles an option for a time out. But have a good pillow that will support your head and neck without too much or too little elevation.
2 You are uptight and so are your muscles. Dampen a cloth with warm water or use a hot water bottle wrapped in a dry, thick cloth to increase the blood circulation of your exhausted muscles. But do not keep it too long for it will aggravate more pain. Ten to fifteen minutes would suffice. Rest for five minutes and you might even want to follow it with ice compress for fifteen minutes to alleviate the inflammation and to numb the pain more.
3 Once everything is done and you are ready to sack out, it is rewarding to take a hot bath or shower to loosen your taut muscles first. Then have someone (or without an eager partner, you could do it by yourself) to massage your neck, shoulder and upper back with oil or lotion in small circular motions. Using a little more of firm pressure, follow it with long, downward strokes. A ten- to fifteen-minute rubdown would be enough to loosen up and sleep better.
4 Having a good night's sleep is very fulfilling, if you will not wake up frustrated in the morning feeling sore and generally not well rested. Proper positioning, pillow, mattress and environment are the key points for a rewarding slumber. Sleep on your side with a hotdog pillow between your legs or on your back with pillow underneath your knees. According to Neck Pain Support: Which Sleeping Position is Best For You?, "the worst position for sleeping is on your stomach because it causes you to rest your head at an uncomfortable right-angle in order to breathe and also puts pressure on your stomach muscles." Use a pillow that will support your head and neck, not allowing you to slope down or hunch your shoulders together. Sleep on a firm (not bumpy or old) mattress which supports your back and keeps your body well aligned. Too soft or too loose cushions will sink your body in giving you back discomforts in time. Have a constant sleep pattern that you have to stick with. Avoid falling asleep on the couch or in a slouch or changing pillows and shifting sleeping positions each night. A good sleep routine will surely make you start your day feeling invigorated for the day ahead.
WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE
Pain is caused by trauma or other injuries like fall or vehicular accidents which are associated with changes in behaviour or mental status like loss of consciousness, incessant vomiting or fluid (may be blood) coming out of the ears and nostrils
Pain is accompanied by fever, limitation of neck movements and other signs of inflammation like reddening and swelling of the affected area
Occurrence of visual disturbances like blurring of vision, seeing spots, flashes of lights or "curtains" or sandy-feeling in your eyes
Episodes of difficulty of speaking (like stammering), tingling sensation or numbness of the head and neck which radiates to the shoulders, arms, hands and back or with difficulty standing up and walking
Headaches which happen 15 or more days in a month for several months (considered as chronic tension headaches)
Pain is not alleviated by home remedies, do not go away easily and are particularly painful5 Always keep your work at eye level with good lighting. You may acquire a "desk neck" position from looking down for long periods or from reaching up at work. Change your chair and desk height accordingly so that the top third of the screen is even with your eyes with a distance of 18-24 inches from your face. Use a ladder, stool or platform instead of reaching up.
6 Always observe and practice good posture. Balance is related to gravity from the head down to the spine. When you keep your back hunched, the tendency is for your head and neck to go forward, thus, creating tension. According to an article entitled "Home Remedies for Easing Neck Pain", you can use a wall to help align your body properly and improve your posture: Stand with your back to a wall, heels several inches from the wall. Your buttocks and shoulders should touch the wall, and the back of your head should be close to the wall. Keep your chin level. Now, step away from the wall. Step back and check your position. Try to carry this posture throughout the day. Also, have a pillow support your back while driving or sitting but avoid spongy soft-cushion seat support.
7 Take a five-minute break from your work every hour. Use the time to do other tasks, such as making phone calls, walking to the water station to refill your glass or just get up and walk around.
8 Forget your "neck-bashing" practices like crimping the phone between your shoulder and neck, falling asleep on a chair and waking up with your chin almost touching your chest, reading with your head supported by the arm-rest of a couch or shampooing your hair in the sink. All of these can cause neck strain.
9 Do not disregard the health of your eyes. Long periods of focusing is definitely damaging to your eyesight so take breaks by focusing at something at a further distance away or rub your hands together to create heat and place them cupped over your eyes. Optometrists recommend the "20-20-20" rule --- for every 20 minutes spent focusing on your computer screen, spend 20 seconds focusing on something else 20 feet away.
10 Do neck exercises which you can do anywhere and anytime. It is recommended that each exercise should be done five times per session (which could be increased to ten when done on a regular basis) with three sessions per day. According to many physical therapists and athletic trainers, these are the following easy exercises you could perform to help decrease neck strains.
Range-of-motion exercises help stretch neck muscles making them less stiff. Sit erect but relaxed. Slowly turn your head to the right as far as you can, hold, and return it to the center. Repeat to the left. Then drop your chin down slowly toward your chest, hold, and relax. Bring your head back up. Now tilt your head toward your left shoulder, hold, and return to the center. Do the same on the right side.
Isometric exercises are performed against resistance but without actually moving your head. Try this routine:
Sit erect and relaxed, hold your hand up to your forehead, and press your forehead into your palm, using your palm to resist the motion.
Place your right hand against the right side of your head, and press your head against your hand (as if trying to bring your right ear to your right shoulder), but use your hand to resist your head's motion. Do the same on the left side.
Press both hands against the back of your head as you try to push your head backward; resist your head's backward motion with your hands.
Press your hand against the right side of your face as you try to turn your head to look over your right shoulder; use your hand to resist the turning motion. Repeat, pressing your left hand to the left side of your face as you attempt to look over your left shoulder.
It would be helpful to precede these exercises with warm compresses on the neck area. In cases of chronic neck pain, these procedures can only give comfort for not too long. This is due to repeated stresses which constantly tear the muscle fibers. The scars formed lock in the spasms and tightness in place. At this point, medical consultation is essential.
Stress is just so inevitable and will definitely be always a part of our everyday living but it is absolutely manageable. It will always be a disturbance but it should not be a hindrance for an expedient and productive life style. Thus, proper approach and management would make a lot of difference and ease. And to top it all, it is very important to have a carefree disposition with regular exercise, good eating habits, adequate sleep and a clean way of living.