Headaches in Toronto, there really aren’t too many things that are worse than that pain in your head, that just won’t go away. That drilling pain. Or if it’s really bad, as with a migraine, bad enough that you feel like throwing up, or actually do.
It robs the joy from your day, or life. The last thing you want to do is go out, or have fun, or even be around people. Hard to be at your best, or a good partner or parent, when you are in so much pain.
So what causes a headache, and what can you do about it?
As with most health issues, there are multiple causes, and specifically multiple types of headaches in Toronto.
The easiest headaches in Toronto to generally deal with occur when you’re dehydrated, or just haven’t eaten enough, a type typically called a hypoglaecemic headache.
You can feel shaky, or a little lightheaded, and feel a pressure or pain in your heaThis often happens when you’re so busy you push and push yourself, or lose track of time, and before you know it, you haven’t eaten for 5, 6, 7 or even 8 hours.
The easiest solution for this is trying to be aware of how long has passed since you last ate. Trying to eat something, preferably some protein and complex carbohydrates, on a regular basis, every 3 or 4 hours, will go a long way to avoiding this. And certainly drinking water on a regular basis, so that by the end of your day, you’ve had at least a liter or two, will help.
Research shows that most people are chronically dehydrated, and by the time you feel thirsty, it can be too late, so try to make a regular habit of keeping water near you, and drinking regularly.
Another cause of headaches in Toronto can be fatigue, or lack of sleep. The solution is – of course – sleep. No matter how much you think you can skip sleep, you can’t. Most people need somewhere between 7-8 hours per night, some a bit more.
You can cheat this for a night or two, but eventually it will catch up with you. Napping during the day can help, but remember to keep it to under 20-30 minutes, otherwise you’ll enter deeper sleep, and wake up feeling groggy and worse than you did before your nap.
Then there are all the other types of headaches in Toronto.
There are ones that are the emergency type headaches, like the sharp stabbing pain, unlike any you’ve ever had before, which is often accompanied by other strange visual (halos in your visual field, floaters in it…) or speech symptoms (slurring words, drooling, etc). Any headaches or symptoms like these warrants an immediate trip to the emergency room of your local hospital, to rule out a potential medical emergency like a stroke or other serious medical issue. If you’re in doubt, or not sure, don’t wait, GO.
Fortunately, for the vast majority of people in Toronto, headaches are not a sign of a catastrophic medical issue.
Compression on the nerves in your neck can occur from acute trauma, either a fall or injury, or more commonly, from a car accident with any type of whiplash injury.
What the research shows is that with any whiplash injury, often times symptoms are minor at first, and may even disappear after a fairly short period of time. But if there has been a structural shift in the spine following the accident, and if this has not been corrected, this will lead to more significant problems, and often headaches, years later.
Then there are the other 90%. The most recent research shows that many of these headaches are cervicogenic in origin, meaning that they originate from your neck, or in anatomy language, your cervical spine.
Some of the most common types of headaches in Toronto are tension headaches, cluster headaches, sinus headaches, rebound headaches, and migraines.
Let’s dive deeper into understanding these types of headaches from a physical standpoint.
Your skull sits on top of your neck, which is comprised of 7 bones, called vertebra. Inside of these bones, is the spinal canal where your spinal cord is located.
Your brain sends messages down through your spinal cord and then out through nerves, exiting from your spine, and going to many different areas. These areas include your neck, your upper back, your shoulders, your chest, your arms and hands, and some branch into your skull and head.
If for some reason the vertebra in your neck have shifted from their normal alignment, this puts increased pressure on the discs, joints, and most significantly, nerves in your neck.
There are specific pain patterns to these nerves, some of which when irritated can cause neck pain and headaches. This is often why, for many people, when they have a headache, their neck will also be sore, or very stiff.
A major reason for this is the chronic postural stress so many of us experience on a daily basis. Humans were never designed to sit for hours a day, or stare down at screens for hours a day. Our anatomy, specifically of our neck, was never designed for this.
All this forward bending with our neck, with gravity pressing down on us constantly, causes the neck to slowly shift further and further forwards, a term called anterior head displacement. This is the typical nursing home posture many of us are familiar with.
Unfortunately, this is not only seen in nursing homes these days, but at younger and younger ages with all the sitting and screen time.
As the neck shifts forward, the natural curve of the neck, termed a lordosis, is lost. The neck either straightens, or in the worst case, adopts a reversed curve, termed a kyphotic curve.
This can occur from chronic slouched postural stress over years and years, gradually puts more and more pressure onto the joints and discs and bones in your neck, leading to potential arthritis, but also compressing nerves, leading to neck pain, and headaches.
This neck irritation and compression can also be initiated by sleeping on your stomach all night, forcing your neck to be in a twisted position for hours and hours. This twisting irritates the nerves over time, often leading to neck problems, and potentially headaches.
To treat any condition, and particularly for headache relief in Toronto, you first need to determine exactly what the exact cause of your headache is.
If you go way too long between eating meals, or are often dehydrated, start to remedy this. Schedule in snack breaks, and make sure to keep a bottle of water by your desk, or within view at home.
If your headaches originate from chronic postural stress, irritating the nerves in your neck, the first step is to minimize this stress, and any further damage. If it started from your head and neck being displaced too far forward, from a chronic structural shift in your neck, then we work on reversing this forward shift.
Being conscious about your posture can help. Minimizing those postures that pull your head forward, like staring down at a phone or screen, can be a good first step.
1. Become aware of it. Set a timer when you’re working at a desk, to go off every 30 minutes. Then get up from your desk, stop looking down, and take a break.
If you know your posture is an issue, start to work on correcting this. If your neck is shifting forwards, an exercise we recommend for many of our patients are neck retraction exercises.
Very simply, this neck exercise is designed to reverse some of the chronic forward poor posture that irritates the nerves in your neck, potentially causing headaches.
Keep your chin neutral, and “suck” your chin backwards, so that you’re essentially trying to make a double chin (don’t worry, it’s only temporary!). Try to keep your chin neutral, or horizontal with the floor, so you’re not elevating it too high towards the ceiling, or dropping it significantly down.
The idea is to strengthen some of the muscles in the back of your neck, and to retrain your neck and brain to recognize that the forward neck posture is bad for you, and needs to be changed, for long term headache relief in Toronto.
The SCM (sternocleidomastoid) and scalene muscles run down the side and front of your neck, and are almost always shortened and tight in anyone who sits for extended periods, or who looks down for extended periods. These often contribute to headaches in Toronto.
To stretch your SCM and scalenes, you want to sit, then bend your ear to your opposite shoulder, rotate your head so you’re looking diagonally up in the opposite direction, then slowly rotate your head towards the opposite shoulder, all while maintaining tension in the stretch.
You should feel the stretch at multiple points in your neck movement, targeting different parts of your SCM and scalenes. If one particular area in your neck feels tighter or slightly sore, hold the neck stretch in that area for longer.
If you’re looking for a headache specialist in Toronto, we have been helping people with chronic headaches in Toronto for over 15 years, and have helped hundreds of people with headaches in that time.
While the advice and recommendations we’ve given throughout this article are all well researched, everyone is different, including you!
It is beyond the scope of this article to give specific headache treatment recommendations for each person, as this will vary depending on your specific symptoms, and on the objective examination and structural x-ray changes seen.
Please consult with a qualified and experienced headache specialist before starting any new stretching or exercise program.
If you are having significant issues with headaches in Toronto, please consult with a qualified corrective chiropractor in Toronto, who has specialized headache treatments to help you feel better, and correct the underlying cause of your headaches.
If we can be of assistance, or if you have specific questions, please feel free to contact our office today.
Dr. Byron Mackay