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Headaches And Migraines: “Why Do They Happen?”

LACEY (WA) – Let’s talk about headaches. They can range from a mid-afternoon head-pounding ache, to an agonizing pain that leaves you sensitive to light and sometimes feeling sick. It’s something most, if not all of us, have experienced at some point in our life. Unfortunately for some, headaches are a bigger problem and can even affect everyday life. For example, Lauren who was a patient of mine wrote this email before seeing us:

Hi Jennifer, I’m 56 and have been suffering from migraines ever since I was a teenager and I’ve never been able to get to the root of the problem. Usually in the past I put my migraines down to stress or a lack of sleep, and then I thought it might be something that I’m eating instead. The thing is, I took away all of the foods that are said to set off headaches like cheese and chocolate…but nothing really changed.

I don’t know if this is true, but I heard once that tension in your shoulders can sometimes bring headaches on. I thought you’d be the best person to ask. Is this right, or am I being silly? I’m tired of getting migraines when I least expect them! It’s awful when they strike in the middle of shopping.” – Lauren, 56, Olympia, WA

Let me tell you now, Lauren certainly was right about tension in your shoulders and at the base of your neck being related to this common problem. I can also imagine you would find it hard to believe me if I told you that 87% of headaches come from tight and tense muscles in your shoulders and neck! You’re not alone. Most people don’t realize that migraines have nothing to do with the foods we eat.

Instead, the culprit is often tension that you never even knew existed in the first place. That’s mainly because you’re just so used to it, or because you just brush it off to the side thinking a “stiff neck” just comes as part of the package of getting older. But if I asked you; do you ever find yourself resting your head in an awkward position while watching TV? Do you ever lean your head forward when you read? Or do you even stick your neck forward when using your phone or computer? I certainly would not be surprised if you answered yes to any of those questions.

All of those things can cause muscles in your neck to become tired, which leads to one thing: lots of tension! That is exactly what was going on with my patient Lauren. For years Lauren was working an office job where she spent hours each day leaning her neck forward looking at a computer screen. We eventually helped ease her neck tension and as a result, her migraines began to decrease in frequency!

So, What Can Be Done For You?

Now, I know that if your job requires working on a computer, you’re not going to be able to suddenly stop looking at one. I’m also not going to tell you to stop reading or to never watch TV again. But here are three things you can get started on today to help ease your neck tension and decrease those headaches!

  1. Be aware of the position of your neck. If you notice that your neck is pushed forwards, tuck your chin in towards your neck to help straighten it and put it back into the right position.
  2. Relax in a warm bath. Muscles love to be warm, and warm muscles mean less tension. So run yourself a nice warm bath, lie back and relax. And if you don’t like baths, use a heat pack!
  3. Talk to our team. We have designed a special package especially for migraine and headaches. It’s something called the Organic Treatment Program that my physical therapists put together. It’s the perfect combination of massage and gentle posture and neck stabilization exercises in addition to ergonomics coaching. They will help you best manage the stressors to your neck in order to reduce headaches. Give us a call and get started today!

The author, Jennifer Penrose, is a Physical Therapist and owner of Penrose Physical Therapy. If you have any questions about neck and shoulder pain or headaches, you can call (360) 456-1444 or email


Jennifer Penrose

Penrose Physical Therapy

"Leading Experts Helping People Become More Active and Mobile, Reduce Stress and Achieve Longevity… So They Can Enjoy Great Health For Years to Come!"

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