Headache From Head Position
The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Headache From Head Position

Muscles connecting the upper extremity to the ...

Certain headaches can be initiated or aggravated by tense facial muscles (squinting, scowling, furrowing brow), and by tight, tense, overstretched muscles in back of the head, neck, and shoulders, common with letting the upper body slouch forward. Headaches from tight muscles were formerly categorized as tension headaches. A growing theory includes upper body muscle use among triggers of a different kind of headache, the migraine, previously thought of as only a vascular event.

The wide range of kinds of headache is not my major field of study. I had previously had results with patients retraining upper body position to stop tension headache. I was not aware my own research would be useful to people with other kinds of headache, so I am learning from my patients who frequently report stories just like this one recently in from engineer Johannes Ernst:

Dr. Ernst writes:

"Some mindblowing ideas one might come across by accident instantly convert you into a new missionary because they are so clearly and obviously true, no further check required. Your particular religion ;-) of fitness is one of them.

"I would summarize it as follows: if our ancestors, over 10's of thousands of years, had had as many ailments as we have today, the human race would have died out a long time ago. No ergonomic chairs but only rocks and logs to sit on? No exercise equipment? Not even one pill a day? Just leaves and furs instead of expensive mattresses and beds? Humans clearly had no chance.

"Well, but here we are nevertheless. So given how many ailments we have, something that we are doing these days must be much worse than what our ancestors did in the forests. Jolie's mindbogglingly straightforward answer: instead of using ever-more complicated medical and fitness tools and regimens, whose benefits, never mind costs, often are marginal or doubtful, what about we use our bodies how they were meant to be used? Duh!!

"The shameful thing is that medicine, as a profession, does not necessarily nudge anybody in that direction. Often, its leading practitioners seem totally oblivious to what should be a "Duh".

"What is wrong with this picture?

"In my case, over the course of 25 years of headaches, healthcare professionals on two continents, etc. etc., nobody, never, not once, suggested, that I could improve my posture. I got all the drugs, regardless of how expensive, few of which would make much difference other than to put me out cold.

"Last week, for the first time, about 6 weeks since I got a few of Jolie's books, I managed to extinguish an immobilizing headache through some rather simple exercises, completely without drugs. I totally expect that I will be able to do it again. (I did! This morning!)

"In case you ask, I do:
Pec stretch and trapezius stretch
Scapular mobilization exercise (in book Fix Your Own Pain Without Drugs or Surgery)
Upper and lower back extension (Fix Pain book)
Push-ups until I am sweating profusely or can't go any further; usually that happens at the same time ;-) (neutral spine for pushups covered in Fast Fitness - Strengthen by Changing Your Plank)
A concentrated effort to keep my shoulders back and down 24 hours a day, including at night, and my chin in.
"Not exactly hard, is it.

"Well, just had to get this off my chest.


Dr. Ernst has more to report. To be continued in future posts.
I asked if he had a photo for us. He wrote:

"I didn't think I was quite bargaining for a photo. If you must, use this one, preferably unedited. It reflects my aspirations I think ;-)

"P.S. two out of three RSS/Atom feeds on your blog are broken."

Healthline tells me they are trying to fix the feeds, which continue to go down after each fix. Use the "subscribe by e-mail" option for convenience.


Other Contributors:
  • There is more to headache than muscles and posture. Many causes can be controlled without unhealthful pills. The book Health & Fitness in Plain English THIRD edition has an entire chapter devoted to known ways to prevent and end a headache.
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.