I get headaches. Every. Single. Day. Or almost. Usually mild, but frequent. It’s rare they’re debilitating or that my head is pounding. I would describe my headaches as the inside of the mine where the Seven Dwarfs work: tiny, orchestrated pick axes pound on my temples while dwarves sing. Metallic clinking and all.
Oh, don’t worry! I’m drinking enough water, I’m exercising regularly, and I eat on the healthier end of the spectrum. I can only chug (okay, sip) 3/4 of a 12-oz cup of coffee in the mornings, and usually with tons of coconut milk. They aren’t near migraine level, either. However, I do have a desk job, wear a low prescription pair of reading glasses to ease eyestrain, TMJ, and am a sloucher. Wah.
So I went to a doctor to see what proactive measures I could take. Turns out, it’s a 1/4 dose of prescription beta blockers / migraine medication. It’s been almost three weeks, and I don’t feel an improvement. That said, my pharmacist said the dose I was prescribed will likely do very little, and that we’ll look into increasing it sooner rather than later. I’ve also taken them sporadically the last week…
I’d like to avoid being on any sort of medication long-term, and a chiropractor friend told me she can tell I get headaches because I slouch. It got my gears turning that maybe this is the factor I need to look into correcting. She also suggested I give the acupuncturist at her clinic a try: ah-maze-ing! Apparently my liver system (not to be confused with the actual organ; they’re not the same) is out of whack and it explains why I’ve been irritable, headache-y and insane when PMS kicks in. He gave me xiao yao san to drink twice a day; it’s a powdered herb blend I’m supposed to drink like a tea that’s supposed to mellow me out. Don’t worry, it won’t react with my medication! My first cup made me feel pretty euphoric, and placebo or not, I’m happy to see a positive effect! So long as I feel less irritable, haha.
I’ve also decided that I should journal more so I’m not coming home with 500 feelings from work that I can’t decipher or explain that will lead to mental health days.
Then there’s the matter of posture: the modern day culprit for all of life’s problems and the bringer of headaches (bad posture = neck strain = headache), depending on who you ask. My parents have hassled me about my posture for, oh, most of my life. I remember when I was 9 and we were visiting my mom’s family in Qatar, one of their friends was telling my mother, in front of me, that she noticed my posture is not good. She told my mom that in Russia, teachers were on them about their posture; she asked my mom if Canadian teachers did the same. They definitely didn’t.
I turned to a yoga instructor for advice on actively using yoga poses to improve my posture. I caught him after class and explained the aforementioned contributing factors. He looked at me thoughtfully, and said, “Just a minute, I’m going to grab a strap”. He showed me two ways to set up the strap so that it loops around my shoulders to build up my rhomboid muscles (muscles and strap setup pictured below), and instructed me to wear it for 45 minutes to 1 hour intervals a few times a day when I feel myself getting slouchy. The trick is to have it slack enough so that it’s not cutting into your arm pits, but cutting into it if you roll your shoulders forward. And leave the strap where you can see it so you remember to use it!
Note: my chiro suggested starting with 20 minute intervals (she is a trained healthcare professional, so I’d take her word over the yoga instructor’s…no offence to yoga instructors).
I threw my sweater over the strap while at work at his suggestion. Fingers crossed the woman I share an office with isn’t judging me.
The Results: I sit straighter, and instantly! I used it at home a few times, and I’ve used it at my desk while sitting. My shoulders and rhomboid (or what I guess are my rhomboid) muscles feel like they’re working to stay in position. Headaches are still there, though. My bet is that I likely need to treat several factors at the same time. Staring at a computer all day = not good for the brain / staring at a light bulb.
Posture correcting gadgets / wearables and technology are great solutions. If they were provided to me for review I would take them on! Hint hint, anyone from Lumo Lift reading this. I’m happy with the low-tech strap option I’ve opted for: it cost me $15 and I can use it in my yoga practice.
This website gives a detailed overview of common posture issues (mine are #3 and a bit of #4…and probably some more) and how to correct them through strengthening the appropriate muscles. The yoga strap method may not work for many of the other issues listed in that link, but it does provide appropriate exercises to aid the muscle groups that correct posture deviations.
I’ll spend some time tomorrow discussing my posture and how to correct it with my chiro, as well 🙂
And here’s a GIF of my cat playing with my strap while my husband took strap setup photos: