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Practical tips to help keep headaches at bay this Christmas

The festive period for many is often a cocktail of too much mulled wine and not enough water.. late nights and a flagging exercise routine, followed by a few nights sleeping on your mate's floor or in an unfamiliar bed (i don't need to know the details). I think some of these things are just inevitable over Christmas and although I advocate a healthy lifestyle, I'm also realistic and think it's good for the soul to let your hair down and enjoy the festivities. So this isn't a blog on how to drink several bottles of wine and wake up the next day without a hum-dinger of a headache (sorry!), this is a blog post on some practical advice that might help prevent a headache from party pooping all over your christmas.

Types of headaches

There are many different types of headaches and it's important to note that any headaches that are unusually severe or very different from your typical type of headache are worth being checked out by a primary healthcare practitioner, but the majority of headaches that people see me for are tension headaches coming from tension in the neck and shoulders; cervicogenic headaches which are headaches that are effectively pain referred from irritated structures in the upper neck, and migraines. What do some migraines, cervicogenic headaches and tension headaches all have in common? They have a musculoskeletal origin, that is to say they stem from tight and painful muscles, or joint restrictions and irritations in the neck.

What can we do to help prevent them?

Here's a couple of tips to try and prevent the build up of musculoskeletal strain that precedes and accompanies these headaches:

- Have an osteopathy appointment before the holidays: if you suffer with headaches regularly and are nervous about them ruining your christmas festivities, then osteopathic treatment is the best place to start. Treatment is completely tailored to you as an individual but examples of things your osteopath may look for are: tension in the small muscles between the neck and the skull, joint restrictions in the upper neck that can refer pain to the head, areas in the upper back and ribs where movement is reduced or restricted, tightness in the shoulder muscles and muscles at the front of the neck, any issues with the jaw from teeth grinding or previous major dental work. We'll also look at any obvious lifestyle factors that might be causing or maintaining your headaches. Click to book in your first appointment today.

- Take your pillow with you: many of us get headaches because we are sleeping in a bed we are not used to, this is usually to do with the pillow. If your pillow at home is quite flat and all of a sudden you spend a few nights at someones house where the pillow is more cushioned and double the height, of course the muscles of your neck are going to get tight, and what can that cause? Headaches. If you can, save yourself the pain and take along your own pillow.

- Wind down before bed: if you have a habit of grinding your teeth at night, this causes a build up of tightness in the jaw muscles and alterations in the way your jaw moves, the both of these things are quite significant contributors to headaches due to the close link between the jaw and the uppermost joint in the neck. Try reading, yoga, meditation or a bath before bed.. late night caffeine is also a culprit here.. and if you're still grinding and need a temporary fix then a mouth guard at night may be useful (you can pick one up from your local pharmacist or better still, have your dentist fit one for you if you really struggle with grinding at night)

- Hot water bottle: a hot water bottle around the back of the neck for 10-20 mins is seriously useful for people that suffer with headaches because of arthritic changes in the neck and for those of you that have tight neck and shoulder muscles. Tight muscles love heat.. think hot showers and big scarves :)

- Get a sports massage: this one is pretty obvious.. tight muscles? Do yourself a favour and book an appointment. Know someone who would love a massage as a Christmas present this year? I now sell gift vouchers for treatment, please get in contact if you would like to find out more!

- Change your computer and laptop setup: Long hours doing last minute online Christmas shopping? Or maybe you're doing long hours trying to finish work projects before the holidays begin? Please make sure your screen is placed at eye level, even if this means propping your computer screen or laptop up on a couple of big books. When the screen is at the correct height, you are much less likely to slouch and suffer with neck/ shoulder tension.

Hope these tips are useful for you, if you have any questions then don't hesitate to get in contact with me! Best wishes to you all and hope everyone has a lovely Christmas and New Years!

Rebecca x

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