The Link between Headaches and Posture


Do you find yourself battling frequent migraines, tension headaches, or cluster headaches? Are you unsure of their cause and how to alleviate them? While headaches can be triggered by various factors, one highly overlooked contributor is your posture. The way your body positions itself and moves throughout the day can have a significant impact on the frequency and intensity of your headaches.

One of the primary ways that poor posture can cause headaches is by creating tension in the shoulder and neck muscles. When your head moves forward of your shoulder (from the side view), it places excessive strain on these muscles, leading to discomfort and stiffness.  This change can also lead to compression of nearby nerves and blood vessels.

So, is my forward head is causing this? Let’s find out by putting your body through a simple test.

  • Stand barefoot against a wall with your heels, butt muscles and shoulder blades all touching the wall. As you stand there, you may notice that your head isn’t touching the wall. Make a mental note of how far away from the wall your head is sitting.  Better yet, have a family member or friend snap a picture of you from the side so you see how far away your head is sitting.
  • Once again, stand against the wall, but this time pigeon-toe your feet so your big toes are touching. If you were standing on the face of a clock, your left heel would be pointing at about seven o’clock and your right heel would be pointing at five o’clock. Now tighten your thigh muscles and let your stomach relax. Stay in that position for a minute or two.

Notice anything different?

If your head isn’t touching now, it is probably much closer to the wall than it previously was. (Now is a great time to have that family member or friend snap another picture from the side so you see the change.)

So, what exactly just happened?

You made a few minor posture adjustments, and your body moved closer to the position it was designed to be.

Congratulations! You have just experienced The Egoscue Method! Egoscue isn’t solely focused on addressing your symptoms (in this example, your headache). We want to solve the problem by getting to the root cause of your issue.  And, we know you do, too.   After all, treating the root cause of the problem is the only way to get permanent solutions and lasting relief.

Understanding Other Common Root Causes of Headaches

The Nervous system

Not only are your muscles, bones, joints all connected, but so is every system in your body. With that in mind, let’s turn our focus to the nervous system for a moment.

Nerve compression is yet another consequence of poor posture. When your spine is misaligned, it can lead to compression or irritation of the nerves in your neck and upper back. This can cause radiating pain that can extend to your head, resulting in what’s known as cervicogenic headaches. This compression can be eliminated by restoring the proper alignment to your neck, upper back, and shoulders.

Cardiovascular system

Proper blood flow is essential for maintaining a healthy, headache-free state. With good posture, your blood can circulate freely throughout your body, including, and most importantly, to your brain. Poor posture can restrict blood flow, reducing the arrival of oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. Reduced blood flow to the brain can trigger headaches, especially migraines, which are often associated with blood vessel constriction.

Oxygen and the respiratory system

How do we get oxygen? We breathe!  When we take a breath in, our diaphragm contracts.  This muscle sits under the bottom of the ribcage like an open umbrella and contracts downward like an umbrella that flips inside out in a heady wind. That downward movement creates the negative pressure which pulls fresh air and oxygen into your lungs.

Maintaining an oxygen-rich supply of blood to the brain is essential for living headache-free.  When the body is aligned, the diaphragm expands the lungs fully, maximizing the amount of oxygen that can be consumed.  Changes in the position of the thoracic back and torso can decrease the function of the diaphragm and diminish the efficiency of our breathing.  That means we get less oxygen with each breathe which results in less oxygen being delivered throughout your body.

Your Body and Its Posture Are Key

It is easy to see how interconnected the body is, and the musculoskeletal system is the anchor for much of the movement that keeps our body functioning at optimal levels.   In this article alone, we covered how the position of our body and the function of our muscles can impact pain, blood flow, nerve activity, and breathing!  Restoring your musculoskeletal system to a fully-functional state is one of the simplest steps you can take to eliminate headaches and elevate your overall health and happiness.

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