March 19, 2024

The #1 Cause of Headaches – The Power of Posture

Headaches and The power of posture

Gwyn Carrigan


When it comes to good health, we tend to think that if we exercise and have a reasonably healthy diet, we are good to go. 

Gwyn Carrigan was one of those people. A health enthusiast, Gwyn has always been diligent and passionate about taking care of herself and living her best life.

A few months ago, Gwyn started experiencing daily debilitating migraines. A fellow overthinker, Gwyn decided to get out of her head, by adding more Mojo to her life. While our classes relieved her headaches temporarily, the headaches would eventually drift back. 

While Gwyn knew her headaches were probably stress-induced, she had a series of tests taken to make sure there was nothing more serious going on (Good thinking!). Luckily the tests came back normal, which put her mind at ease.

With the help of specialists, Gwyn did a deep dive into the cause of headaches. They have finally subsided (Yayyy!) and she was kind enough to share what she learned along with some tips and exercises I think you will find enlightening and helpful. The #1 cause of her headaches may surprise you…

Th power of postureHere’s Gwyn: 
I will never take feeling good for granted and I am so very thankful! While this three-month ordeal had me in and out of doctor appointments with daily headaches, this journey has shown me how interconnected our body is. The primary reason for my headaches was my posture, which manifested as jaw pain – TMJ, temporomandibular joint disorder

The most common form of headache is a tension headache (Cleveland Clinic, Tension Headaches; Causes and Symptoms) Tension headaches are caused by tightness in the muscles of the scalp and neck, aka. poor posture, jaw clenching, eye strain, anxiety, and sleep disorders.

 
 

Why is posture such a big deal? Like a house that has a weak foundation or crooked beams. Over time, the weight of the house will cause the foundation to crack and the beams to bend, leading to serious damage. Similarly, our bodies are supported by a complex system of bones, muscles, and ligaments. Wear and tear on our necks and backs can also lead to degenerative changes.

One of the many side effects of poor posture is headaches: The neck is a major passageway for nerves and blood vessels that supply the brain. Poor posture can compress the nerves and blood vessels in the neck, leading to TMJ, Temporomandibular joint disorder, and headaches.

The "Angry Man" chin tuck exercise helps reduce tension and relieve headaches

The “Angry Man” chin tuck exercise helps reduce tension and relieve headaches

Of all the posture alignment exercises Gwyn’s physical therapists gave her,  the most soothing release has been the “Angry Man”, chin tuck, exercise. Gwyn says she did it continuously on a recent 7-hour car drive. “It may look odd to passersby (LOL), but it has been a lifesaver for me!” Check this link for some exercises for stress-relieving tension headaches.

“Mojo’s stress-relieving energy, workout-tightening muscles, and posture reminders all have contributed to me having fewer headaches/tension in my neck/jaw and raising my spirits.”

 

Whose posture is better? After seeing this picture, Gwyn saw her neutral-positioned shoulders and said that she did not think her posture was as good as mine since they were pulled down and back. I thought she looked great and decided to research it. According to physical therapists, when it comes to spine alignment, Gwyn’s posture is 100% correct for everyday purposes. While my posture is a bit strained for everyday purposes, It is the best posture when dancing and mojoing. Here’s why…

In dance fitness, keeping our shoulders down and back offers several posture and alignment benefits:

  • Elongated Spine: When our shoulders are down, it naturally encourages a lengthened spine, which is crucial for proper balance and weight distribution while dancing.
  • Open Chest: With our shoulders down and back, our chest opens up, it allows for deeper and more controlled breathing, which is essential for maintaining stamina throughout our sessions.
  • Relaxed Shoulders: Keeping shoulders down prevents tension, enabling a wider range of motion in your arms and upper body. This allows for more expressive and fluid movements.
  • Reduced Risk of Injury: Good posture helps distribute stress evenly across our body, reducing the risk of strains and injuries, especially in our back and neck.
  • Connectedness: When we focus on keeping your shoulders down, it encourages core engagement, which provides stability and power for our movements.

Keeping your shoulders down and back all the time isn’t recommended, particularly if it feels unnatural. 

Here’s why:

  • Tension and discomfort.: Our shoulder blades naturally sit on a curved ribcage, so forcing them down and back can be uncomfortable and result in stress.

Everyday posture:

  • Neutral Shoulder Position: Imagine your shoulder blades gently resting on your back, neither slumped nor pinched together, which can lead to tension and restricted breathing.
  • Lengthened Spine: Focus on maintaining a tall spine with a natural curve, not a rigid rod.
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