Headaches & Habits

Most headaches are caused by lifestyle and daily habits. Many factors can contribute to headache symptoms and severity.

Movement & Muscles – our bodies are meant to move! Since we are creatures of habit, we tend to move in the same ways every day and our bodies are continuously adapting to what we are doing. The problem is that doing the same things repetitively will lead to over training some movement patterns and weakening others, which leads to dysfunction. These now tight or overworked muscles can cause headaches that can last for days.

Movement & Joints – When spinal segments aren’t moving properly the brain can create a variety of symptoms, including headaches. Chiropractic adjustment helps to restore the normal motion of your joints so the brain can better assess and control your body. In order to keep healthy motion, you must learn to move your body in a variety of positive ways to help counteract the repetitive movements and postures that can cause our pain and headaches. Incorporate as much movement as you can throughout your day in all ranges of motion.

Key strategies for tackling headaches:

    1. Drinking enough water – Your tissues need to be hydrated to move and glide past each other well. Your brain is the first organ to suffer from dehydration.
    2. Getting enough sleep – Read Dr. Lindsay’s previous blog on this topic!
    3. Stretching and massage therapy – It’s important to pin point where your headache is coming from and where the referral pain goes to. Talk with your massage therapist about your discomfort and try some easy neck stretches at home to help alleviate your pain.
      • Rotate your head to the left and tilt your head back. Feel the stretch on the right side of your neck and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on other side.
      • Lower your left ear to your left shoulder and gently apply pressure using your opposite hand, hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on other side.


For those with migraines, all the factors that play into non-migraine headaches can and often do still apply to you (i.e. proper alignment of your spine, muscle tension, stress, hydration, the health and function of your fascia, and so on).

Sometimes in migraine cases, when a trigger is obvious, such as a food trigger or hormonal/menstrual migraines, you may think that is the sole cause of your migraines and you might try to narrow your treatment focus to that one element. In reality, migraines are like a cup that overflows: maybe your period is the straw that broke the camel’s back, but all the stress you had that month, diet choices, lack of physical activity, your need for a massage or chiropractic treatment all compounded to eventually present in a migraine that cycle. So, if you don’t move your body (exercise) regularly and keep the muscles strong that help support proper posture, you may not get the results you are expecting from a hormone balancing protocol because other factors are also contributing to your migraines.

Sleep and stress management are an important factor for all headaches, including migraines. Sometimes, you may not even realize how your body is dealing with the stress in your life. Your stress hormones can be very high and you may not be experiencing anxious thoughts or the feeling of being “stressed out”; you may only have physical manifestations of stress (such as headaches or disturbed sleep) that you are not even connecting with the stress in your life. Testing your stress hormone levels at different points throughout the day can really take the guesswork out of the equation and narrow in on the root causes of your headaches.

– Dr. Lindsay, Dr. Willow ND, and Kaylie RMT