Last Thursday, I felt something I don’t often feel: I felt defeated.
What a terrible feeling! Started my morning with some personal/business stumbles that made me a little pouty, Dr. Jake was ditching me for the weekend to go visit a buddy (which meant I spent all weekend over-analyzing every little creak in our house, certain it was someone breaking in), and the cherry on top: I had an uncontrollable MIGRAINE! I, the girl who preaches all the time how amazing my life is “without” headaches, was experiencing my RARE uncontrollable migraine. I was nauseated, I was dizzy, I was sensitive to light and sound…everything that would make me absolutely useless for an afternoon of seeing patients. So I’m going to say 3 words that’s going to make all of my chiro friends cringe when they read it: I. Took. Tylenol.
But this is not a tale of pity or despair; what I want you to get out of this post is how far I’ve come and how you can get here too!
Tylenol used to be a part of my DAILY life. As in- if the bottle says “every 6 hours” for a max dose…it was probably every 4 hours on headache days for me. I’ll spare you the details of my pre-chiropractic life, as you can read the nitty-gritty info HERE. The moral of the story: these uncontrollable migraines used to happen weekly, with other less-intense headaches between them. But now, these migraines happen about 2-3 times a year. Looking back, I’d say that’s pretty great improvement!
As much as I hate to admit I took the meds last week, I just want you to know that I'm not trying to fool you that I'm perfect! And as hard as you try, the really resilient headaches may still come through sometimes- but it's ok! That's our body's way of warning us we need to change something. So what works 99% of the time to make any sort of headache/migraine go bye-bye in my life?
1. I GET ADJUSTED. REGULARLY.
I’m sure you saw that one coming, but it is absolutely the most important piece in my life to keep headaches at bay. Yes, I am very lucky to be married to a chiropractor (and therefore have the ability to receive adjustments 24/7), so I don’t blame you for being a little jealous of me for that one. But regular adjustments are the #1 thing that have a profound effect on my headaches. I know my body- and I know that if I go a single day longer than 7 days without an adjustment, I WILL have a headache. I know that if I have a long car ride or plane trip that I’m going to need an extra adjustment. I know that if I go through a really emotionally-stressful event that I’m basically going to have to get adjusted every hour until that stressor leaves my system and I can begin to adapt properly again.
2. I’M MINDFUL OF MY TRIGGERS.
If you’re a regular headache-sufferer but haven’t taken the time to do a headache diary, please drop everything you’re doing and do it now! Basically what happens when you are journaling your headaches is you record everything- every. little. detail.- that happens every day…until you find a pattern. Everyone knows that there is a cause for every effect, and headaches follow that rule. Whether it be too much sugar, not enough water, certain smells/chemicals, bad sleeping position, emotional stress…whatever it is- your headache is your body’s way of telling you it is NOT ok with what your system is exposed to. (Which brings me back to getting adjusted, since it will make it so you can better adapt to changes in your environment).
3. I ALLOW MYSELF TO SLEEP.
And not just willy nilly- I give myself good quality sleep in a good position for the right amount of time. I know you’ll probably say, “But I just can’t fall asleep like that.” And I totally feel you- I slept in what I now know is the WORST sleeping position just a few years ago! Sleeping in the “right” position (there are a couple good ones) takes some time to get used to and you definitely have to “train” yourself, but it’s very doable and makes a tremendous amount of difference! I’m also very mindful of the pillow I use and make sure it’s one that works well for me.
4. I WORK ON MY POSTURE. OFTEN.
People don’t realize how easy it is to begin to slouch any time you’re seated or standing for an extended period of time. Headaches often stem from tension in the muscles supporting your head and neck, and the moment you begin to slouch, your muscles start to get angry. I used to have to put a sticky note on my computer monitor that said, “Sit up!” Sure, it didn’t catch EVERY second that I was slouched, but over time I was able to train myself to the point that I almost always have better posture!
5. I DABBLE IN ESSENTIAL OILS.
So far, the one that has been working best for me is Peppermint, but I know there are other oils and oil blends that work really well! My tension (which is usually the source of my headache) is usually at the base of my skull- so I just take one drop and put it on my finger and rub it at that spot. It gives a cooling effect which is really soothing! I also like to put a drop on my wrist so I can sniff it as the tension starts to flare up- and I even love diffusing it throughout the day!
6. ICE IS MY BEST FRIEND.
Yes, I know that ice is a little less comforting than the warmth of a sock filled with rice- but trust me, there’s a method to the madness. The pain is caused my inflammation in the area, and having ice will help to decrease that inflammation, which helps to ease some of the tension.
7. EAT RIGHT, EXERCISE OFTEN.
I know, I know- that's the answer to everything. But it's especially true here! Coming back to the principle of headaches being your body's way of telling you it's not happy...well your body surely won't be happy if you're not treating it well! So make sure you do your best to incorporate a healthy diet and exercise into your life to keep your body happy!