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Episode 148: Headache Reduction and Relief

Video Highlights

- Three areas to check for tightness.
- Simple mobilization to reduce points of tension.
- Three to four times a day will help keep the pain away.

Today we’re going to be talking about structures of your skull and how knowing about them can help get rid of headaches.

I know it’s not Halloween, but I wanted to start off today showing you the human skull. If you’ve never seen a human skull, it’s actually incredibly fascinating, incredibly intricate. This one’s about 80 or 90 years old. It was a gift from one of our wonderful trainers. What I want to point out to you today to give you some ideas about how to help with recurrent headaches or recurrent head pain, particularly stuff that you’ve already had, maybe you’ve seen your doctor for and you know that nothing bad’s going on but you just have muscle tension headaches or migraines or things that bother you, we’re really interested in different areas of your skull call sutures.

Now, sutures are where two different bones come together. Basically, it’s like a joint in the skull. In most adults, these are quite hardened. They form together. There’s a lot of speculation about do they move, how much they move. Do they stay open throughout the lifespan? Ultimately what we’re learning as science continually changes is that whether or not these bones in the skull actually move very much doesn’t matter, because these areas still have neural innervation, which means that nerves are actually supplying these areas to give information about this tissue back to the brain.

Why this is really important is, whenever we dig into the neurology of the head, what we see is that your brain has coverings, like a blanket, and these blankets are really thin. They’re called meninges. The meninges actually send nerve fibers through the skull, and these fibers will innervate, they’ll actually supply the ligaments that lay in between the joints in the skull. Why that’s really cool to know is that those nerves have a lot of what are called nociceptive nerve endings in them. Nociceptors are the type of nerve endings that signal threat that eventually your brain will consider as pain.

What we’re learning basically in all this is that these areas in your skull have the possibility to create headaches or to create head pain or jaw pain or face pain. What I wanted to do today is just show you how to find a couple of these guys on your own head and take you through a couple of exercises that you can start to do throughout the day that may reduce a lot of head and neck tension or even help you get rid of headaches.

To start, what we’re going to realize is that we have skin covering this skull, so we have to find a couple of these structures. What I want you to start off with is I’m going to have you put your hands on each side of your head and you’re going to rub up and down, just up and down. Usually what you’ll find is kind of a ridge. If you’re in this area right above your ear, as you move your fingers up and down you should be able to find a ridge. Now that ridge is one of these sutures.

What I want you to do is keep your fingers on that ridge, and I want you to have it on both sides. Then I want you to pull your fingers forward and then push them back, and then push them up and push them down. You’re trying to take the skin with you as you do that. The reason I’m having you do this is I want you to compare side to side. If I pull forward and then I push back and then I push up and then I pull down, I’m trying to identify if one side versus the other has less skin mobility than the other side.

Usually what we find are areas with less skin mobility are areas that are maybe causing pain. For instance, in my own head right now what I find is that this left side, when I pull down the skin is a little tighter than the skin on the right. Now obviously I’ve lost all my hair to make this really easy to do, so if you have a big thick head of hair, that can be a little bit challenging, but I just want you to take note of that. Now, once I find that I’m going to do a little light massage on that area. Take about 20 or 30 seconds and just lightly do circular massage around the area that wasn’t moving very well.

Then we’re going to add one more little thing to this, because we’re Z-Health and we always do stuff with movement. Once we’ve warmed that area up a little bit, I’m going to now pull the skin down. Again, I’m pulling in the direction that was most sticky for me, and I’m going to hold that down. One I’ve got that in position, I’m now going to do just some little nodding motions. As I nod, I’m going to play around with some movements of my head, usually that include nodding, turning my head, rotating it, and tilting, until I can feel a little stretch right under my fingers. Right there I can feel a little stretch in the skin and it’s starting to move again.

I want you to do that three or four times. Like I said, you’re going to have to play with this a little bit. Your motions are typically going to be nodding, tilting, and turning away from the side that you’re doing the stretch on. Once you’ve done that three or four times, I want you to now come back and test again. See if it feels a little bit more similar to the other side. If so, good job. You’ve now set in motion, hopefully, a little physiologic cascade that will start to reduce neck tension for you, reduce head pain for you, and often even reduce eye tension throughout the day.

Now, you can do that here. You can do that on top of the head. It’s the same process. If you look at our skull you can see we’ve got this nice little strange-looking joint here at the top. It’s called the saggital suture. You can find that one by running your fingers across the top of your head until you find a ridge, and then you do the same process. You just pull the skin right and left, forward and back, again just looking for the areas that have the most stickiness, and then you try to make them a little less sticky.

The three areas that I typically recommend that people start with are the first ones that we did on the side of the head, and then the top of the head, and then, finally, the back of the head. If you look here, you can see this is called the occiput. We have this big line, a big suture that runs all the way across the back of the head. The way that I find that one is I put my hands on top of my head and then I run them backward along my skull toward the back of my neck, you’re going to find a big ridge right about there. Once again I’m going to do the same process, where I pull the skin up, pull it down, pull it forward, and pull it back, again just comparing side to side to try and identify areas that are sticky.

That’s the whole idea. If you find areas that are a little sticky where you respond well to, try doing these little exercises with a light massage and then some movement three or four times a day. It can make a huge difference in keeping you out of pain. If you have any questions about this one, let me know.

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