Headaches & Migraines

Migraine Meltdown? Natural Strategies for Calming the Headache Storm

Imagine a swirling vortex in your head, pulsing with each heartbeat, amplifying every sound and dimming every light. That’s the unwelcome arrival of a migraine, a sensory hurricane leaving you incapacitated and longing for calm. Beyond the throbbing pain, nausea can turn your world into a dizzying carousel, while sensitivity to light and sound transforms even the gentlest flicker into a searing strobe. Auras, those visual disturbances or tingling sensations, become unwanted guests in your sensory symphony, and fatigue and dizziness leave you feeling like the world itself is tilting on its axis.

But unlike a helpless victim in a storm, you can weather this tempest. By understanding the different types of migraines – the episodic visitors who drop by less than 15 times a month, the chronic residents who stay for 15 or more, the basilar migraines targeting your skull’s base, or the hemiplegic ones causing temporary weakness – you can begin to identify your personal triggers, the kryptonite to your migraine monster.

Unveiling the Triggers

Every migraineur’s story is unique, a puzzle with its own set of clues. Identifying your triggers is like piecing together this detective novel. The hormonal fluctuations during menstruation or pregnancy might be the culprit, or perhaps the weight of the world on your shoulders, the stress and anxiety acting like a heavy migraine crown. Food and drinks can be unwelcome party crashers, with red wine, aged cheese, and processed meats turning your digestive system into a trigger zone. Dehydration transforms your body into a desert, fertile ground for headaches to bloom, while irregular sleep patterns or poor sleep quality become invitations for migraines to raid your peace. Sensory overload, the bright lights, loud noises, and strong smells, can be the DJs at your internal migraine rave, and even weather changes, barometric dips, and stormy forecasts can turn into unwelcome migraine announcements.

Keeping a migraine diary is your detective kit, helping you track patterns and identify the specific factors that set off your storm. With this knowledge, you can build a fortress against migraines, a haven of your own making.

Building a Migraine-Proof Fortress

Imagine yourself in a sturdy castle, well-stocked and prepared for any siege. This is the picture of a migraine-proof lifestyle. To build this fortress, a healthy sleep schedule is your first line of defense, ensuring your mind and body have a safe haven to rest and recharge. Stress and anxiety, the unwelcome visitors, can be kept at bay through relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing, transforming your stress from a hurricane into a gentle breeze.

Hydration is your moat, keeping your body from becoming a parched landscape for migraines to sprout. Nourishment is your stockpile, with a balanced diet of whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein acting as your armor. Processed foods, sugary drinks, and potential trigger foods are like Trojan horses, and by avoiding them, you keep your gates secure. Planning your meals and snacks ensures your blood sugar levels stay stable, preventing low blood sugar from inviting migraines to the party.

Caffeine and alcohol, while tempting allies, can be double-edged swords. Occasional consumption might be tolerated, but excessive intake is like pouring fuel on the migraine fire. Creating a calm environment is your final defense, minimizing exposure to bright lights, loud noises, and strong smells, turning your surroundings into a sanctuary for migraine relief. And don’t forget exercise, your secret weapon! Regular physical activity helps reduce stress and improve sleep, both of which act as powerful shields against migraines.

When the Storm Hits – Finding Calm in the Chaos

Even with the strongest fortress, the occasional rainstorm might breach your defenses. When a migraine strikes, don’t despair! Like a seasoned sailor weathering a tempest, you have tools at your disposal to calm the onslaught. Rest in a dark, quiet room, your personal safe harbor where you can remove yourself from sensory overload and allow your body to rest. A cold compress on your forehead or neck, your trusty ice pack, can help reduce inflammation and numb the pain. A warm beverage, like ginger tea or peppermint tea, can be a soothing companion, offering comfort and potentially relaxing your muscles.

Relaxation techniques are your anchors in the storm. Deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help manage stress and pain, turning the raging waves of discomfort into ripples of calm. Acupressure and massage, like gentle pressure on specific points, can be your life preservers, offering relief from the pain. Essential oils, like lavender or peppermint, applied topically or diffused, can be your aromatic allies, bringing a sense of peace and potentially easing pain.

But remember, if your migraine is a raging hurricane, accompanied by concerning symptoms like fever, stiff neck or vision changes, don’t hesitate to sound the alarm. Seek immediate medical attention. You deserve the most comprehensive support in weathering this storm.

Living Beyond the Migraine Monster

Living with migraines requires more than just weathering the storm; it’s about embracing a life filled with calm. Joining a support group can be like finding a harbor amongst fellow seafarers, offering comfort, understanding, and valuable tips. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey.

Explore alternative therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic care, or biofeedback. These can be valuable tools in your migraine management arsenal, offering different approaches to navigate the choppy waters of your condition.

Nourish your well-being beyond the physical. Mindfulness practices like meditation and journaling can help cultivate inner peace and resilience, empowering you to cope with the challenges of migraines. Take time for activities you enjoy, hobbies that bring you joy and act as lifelines when the storm clouds gather.

Remember, you are more than your migraines. You are a resilient voyager, equipped with the knowledge and tools to navigate the unpredictable seas of this condition. By understanding your triggers, building a preventative fortress, and finding effective relief strategies, you can reclaim control and embrace a life where calm prevails over the storm.

Don’t let migraines dictate your story. Take control of your journey with Progressive Edge Physical Therapy. Our team of dedicated professionals is here to equip you with personalized guidance, comprehensive treatment plans, and the support you need to navigate the challenges of migraines. Contact us at 201-563-8418 or visit our clinic at Union, NJ. We’re with you every step of the way, helping you rewrite your story and embrace a life filled with calm, well-being, and the freedom to thrive.

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The Importance of Core Strength

What do you think about when I say the following: “Core Strength”? It’s natural to think of your core as just your abdominal muscles – surfer ‘6 packs’ and ‘washboard abs’. It’s natural to want that, too! But, what if I told you that core strength is something entirely different? What if it isn’t about having the perfect beach body or wearing a bikini like a model? What if core strength is about being strong… not so that you can pick up boulders, but so that you can stay mobile for longer? That’s exactly what this post is all about: we’re giving you the low down on what core strength is, why it’s important, and how you can achieve it. Stay tuned – here we go!

The truth is, core strength involves more than just your abdominals. In actual fact, it’s the ability of all the muscles in your mid-body to remain supple, strong, and flexible under stress and pressure. Yes, your abdominal muscles are involved, here, but so are your pelvic floor muscles, oblique muscles, and pectorals. Overall, your trunk houses a multitude of muscles, each of which plays a major role in feeding into ‘core strength’.

The medical profession mentions core strength fairly often, and if you’ve been struggling with back problems, in particular, my hope is that you’ve at least heard of it by now! Core strength – the strength and endurance of your trunk muscles – plays a vital part in upper back, lower back, and even leg and shoulder health. Without core strength, these major nerve centers lose structure, stability, and ultimately, mobility. More on that later, though.

When it comes to core strength, the important thing to know is that you ought to keep it up – even if you feel in good health and aren’t currently experiencing pain, it’s in your best interest to maintain that pain-free lifestyle by strengthening this group of muscles. It may actually surprise you quite how much having core strength benefits you. Just take a look at some of the activities core strength can either hinder or improve: sitting, standing, sleeping, working out, running, walking, playing golf, cycling, swimming, picking up your grandkids, driving a car… the list is practically endless! The bottom line? Core strength matters!

The other side of the coin in, of course, that a lack of core strength can result in injury and chronic pain. If you’ve read some of our other blogs, you’ll know by now that muscle function is interconnected – they aren’t independent of one another. Each muscle has an affect on the next – if one fails, the other will overcompensate and, in turn, will fail itself. A dramatic, sometimes life-changing knock-on effect can ensue. It’s no different when it comes to core muscles. If you fail to strengthen them, they’ll affect the other muscles in your body. In this instance, you’re likely to suffer from a variety of issues including, though by no means limited to, headaches, spasms, back pain, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, sciatica, and even foot and knee pain! It’s a bit of an eye-opener, isn’t it?

Luckily, core strength is attainable – and no, I don’t mean you need to eat raw eggs and spend a daily six hours in the gym! Simple, consistent routines and exercises can go a long way in helping you gain – and maintain – your core strength… and thereby, health. Here are a couple of examples you can try right after reading this post!

Planks

  1. Lie belly down on a yoga mat or floor.
  2. Place your hands by your side – at shoulder level – and lift your torso up.
  3. Make sure your legs remain straight.
  4. Lift your body off of the ground until your arms are just slightly bent.
  5. Remain in this position for 30 seconds at a time.
  6. Do not let your pelvis drop to the floor – try to remain as ‘straight as a plank’ from your shoulders through to your heels.

Side Planks

  1. As with the plank routine, lie down on your belly.
  2. Turn over onto your side, making sure your heels remain together.
  3. Lift one arm straight up, in line with your shoulder.
  4. Push yourself away from the floor with your other arm.
  5. Make sure your supporting arm remains slightly bent.
  6. Create an unbroken line from outstretched fingertip to supporting hand. 
  7. Lengthen your entire body and make sure it’s straight across – from your shoulders to your heels.
  8. Do not let your hip drop down to the mat.
  9. Hold this pose for 30 seconds at a time.

Bridge Pose

  1. Lie down on a mat, with your back touching the floor.
  2. Make sure your legs are stretched out and your arms are at your side, palms facing down.
  3. Place your feet squarely on the ground, now, and bend your knees.
  4. Without lifting your shoulders or elbows from the floor, slowly lift up your pelvis until you form a straight line from your shoulder to your knees.
  5. Your knees should be bent at around 90 degrees.
  6. Hold this pose for 30 seconds at a time.
  7. Do not lift your hands from the floor, and make sure your arms do not leave the ground at any point. 

Yoga/Pilates

A good way of strengthening your core strength is by doing regular Yoga and/or Pilates. The routines in each form of exercise lend themselves well to overall strength as they vary in focus, yet they are particularly effective when it comes to core strength. Why not try a local class for some inspiration and motivation?

Those suggestions aren’t that hard, are they? None of that body-builder stuff is needed! Fitness is essential in maintaining health, and keeping up your core strength is a massive part of that. If you’re stuck, though, and you’re not quite sure where to start with building up your core muscles, why not contact one of our professional, hands on physical therapists? Not only will physical therapy help you build up your core strength, but it will give you the tools to maintain that strength on your own! How? Well, you’ll get tailor made exercise and stretches! Whether you’re currently suffering from back pain or any other ailment and just want to regain a pain-free, healthy lifestyle, or even if you just want to get started on building up your core strength in order to avoid injury in the future, physical therapy can help. 

Now is a great time to start building your core strength – no matter how old you are, what injury you may be suffering from, or how fit/unfit you think you are… core strength is for everyone! Contact us today for more tips, support, and advice!

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Headaches: What To Do When You Just Can’t Get Rid of Them

Headaches can strike at any time – without invite or warning – and if you’re anything like the majority of people out there, they can often affect your mood, energy levels, and general wellbeing. For some, though, headaches can be more than a passing inconvenience, with pain and discomfort lasting for a much longer time than expected despite pain meds, rest, and other treatments. The truth is, the cause of these ‘everlasting’ headaches can sometimes be traced back to an increased intake of caffeine, general dehydration, and oftentimes posture. And yet, it can be easier said than done when it comes to treating them on your own, even if you do know the likely cause. In this post, then, we lend a helping hand with a few tips as to how to treat headaches that just won’t go away; we want to show you how you can get a pain free life back, right now. 

Headaches have a unique way of blindsiding us as we do our shopping, take a walk around the park, or grab some water from the cooler at work. The fact is, we just never know when we might experience the throbbing, aching sensations associated with them. Thankfully, though, there are ways of mitigating both their frequency and strength and, as we’re about to show you, headaches don’t need to be feared. 

The first port of call when it comes to treating existing headaches and staving off potential future ones is to work on your posture. Why? Well, your posture has a lot to do with how much stress is placed on your muscles, and that includes those muscles in your back and neck. When those particular muscles are strained or overcompensate on one side of your body – as when you carry your handbag or backpack over one shoulder – they may become tight and cause a domino effect leading to ongoing headaches. Therefore, the best way to tackle your headaches may well be to start with stretches and exercises that support the back and neck muscles. Strengthening those muscles, as well as your core muscles, via walking, cycling, swimming, or jogging will set you on the right track. Keep your body supple and flexible and you’ll be amazed at how infrequent your headaches become. 

Next in line is addressing your fluid intake. Not only is drinking enough water critical for the optimum function of your muscles, tissues, and organs, but a lack of aqua actually leaves you vulnerable to disease, viruses, and yes… headaches. Why is that? Well, nutrients and vitamins are often water-soluble, meaning a lack of water results in an inadequate uptake of essential nutrients. Headaches can be the result of low electrolyte levels, high blood pressure, and even just increased sugar levels in the blood; drinking enough water and minerals facilitates the healthy maintenance of your blood circulatory system and thereby halts headaches in their tracks. Remember, pain is always an indication that there is an underlying issue – drink enough water to ‘rinse’ toxins from your body. Try drinking close to 2.5L a day, though aim for more if you’re exercising or training. 

And on that note… limit your stress! You hear this daily, I’m sure, but stress contributes directly to your headaches. The more you stress, the more strain is placed on your muscles, overall body function, and brain health. Headaches function as the body’s alarm system when it comes to stress. So, if you’re not sleeping, not eating well, not moving enough, and not taking time out of your crazy schedule to relax, then it’s time to make a change. Relax your body, relax your mind, and say goodbye to headaches!

Having given you this advice, we understand that dealing with headaches can be daunting – especially if you’ve lived with their debilitating effects for a long period of time. Headaches, migraines, and everything in between can have a negative effect on your overall quality of life, and we want to help. You’d never have imagined that physical therapy could target headaches, did you? Well, it can, and not only that, it’s one of the most effective treatments for them. How? Well, your headaches may in fact be the cause of something entirely unexpected – from muscle pain, to stress, to improper posture – and physical therapy helps you find and treat the root cause of the problem. Unlike painkillers or massages, physical therapy doesn’t just treat the pain… it treats the cause. And once the cause is treated, the headaches will dissipate. 

The fact is, physical therapy also equips you with the tools needed to reprogram your daily activities. From how much water to drink, what stretches to do, how to sit, stand, drive, and walk, and even how to hold your phone or the book you’re reading, physical therapy can teach you all of that. For a qualified, professional, hands-on physical therapist, treating headaches isn’t just about getting rid of the pain, it’s about setting you up for a lifelong journey of health and longevity in order to prevent that pain from returning in the first place. 

If you’re not sure about where to start when it comes to treating your headaches, or if you’re worried, anxious, or have been defeated by daily, debilitating pain, then we invite you to chat with one of our friendly physical therapists, right now. It’s time that you get the answers you need in order to make the changes necessary for a life free of pain. Don’t allow headaches to underscore important activities in your life – take charge and start living free of pain that won’t seem to go away. 

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