• Dr. Jenna Arts

Your Headache Survival Guide


A raging headache blasting away at your skull like a jackhammer can completely derail your day. At it’s worst it can even make it seem impossible to go to work, take care of your family or even yourself.

Trust me, I know. I suffered with migraines for years...

Although headaches are far and few between nowadays, they do still creep in occasionally, especially when I tend to slip on any of the 5 strategies that I’ve outlined below.

But first, what is a headache?

Headaches are one of the most common types of pain, experienced by 90% of people at some point in their lives. That’s almost everyone! 13% of people have experienced one in the past year, and 3% suffer from chronic and debilitating headaches or migraines. 

They consist of pain arising from the structures and tissues surrounding your upper neck (cervical spine), brain and skull. There are different types of headaches including migraines, cluster, tension and a few handful of others. The pain can be throbbing, sharp, dull, aching, constant, intense or mild. Regardless of the type or character, there’s no question that a headache is never enjoyable.

I hear far too often in the office about someone’s “normal daily headache” or that they “aren’t that bad."

I’m here to tell you the there’s nothing normal about a daily headache. You're in pain daily. It may have become your new normal, but it isn't how the body is designed to function or feel.

So if this sounds all too familiar what I suggest is that you try all or some of the 5 steps I outline below.

1. Take a Nap

More energy, better moods and enhanced memory are just some of the benefits of napping. But in addition to these, participants in some studies have found that going to sleep was the absolute most effective strategy for reducing or resolving a headache. 

I get it, it isn’t always realistic to take a nap if your kids are running around the house screaming or you’re at work, but if you can, definitely leverage this highly underutilized strategy. 

2. Drink More Water

It sounds almost too easy... too good to be true. 

Yet the research supports that up to 75% of people could be chronically dehydrated. If you suffer with headaches, you likely fall into this category!

When your body experiences a loss of fluid, the brain itself shrinks, pulling away from the skull which causes irritation to the structures in surrounding areas and causes the pain you experience during a headache. Once you’re re-hydrated, the brain returns to normal and the headache can potentially disappear. 

3. Get Your Spine Checked

A cervicogenic headache is characterized by pain perceived in the head but from a source in the tissues of the neck, or cervical spine, including the discs, ligaments, soft tissues or blood vessels. 

Presence of structural shifts in the cervical spine can exist for years and years affecting all of those structures without presenting any symptoms (much like a cavity can deteriorate your tooth without causing pain for a while) and be a significant contributor to your headaches. 

The best way to know if structural shifts are even present in your spine and if they’re contributing to your headaches is to undergo a complete examination and analysis in our office. If that’s what you're looking for, click here to schedule a complementary consultation and start the process. 

4. Move Your Body

It’s a common myth that you shouldn’t exercise when you have a headache. 

And although I do agree that there are certain movements that won’t feel good if you have a headache (jumping, running around or lifting weights) please know that there’s a massive difference between movement and exercise. Going for a walk, playing at the park with your kids, gardening or doing yoga can be the perfect remedy for endorphin release, which are nature’s painkillers. 

As long as you have the energy, willpower and motivation to get up and move, it can, at the very least, decrease the severity of most headaches by helping to mobilize the joints of your neck and stretch the tight soft tissues.

5. Eat More Fat

It’s no surprise that with our fat-phobic epidemic most people are doing a really great job of avoiding fat. The consequence of this is a population that is fat deficient and suffering significant consequences, including frequent headaches.

The growth, development and health of our brain and nervous system is dependent on a diet that includes fat, which leads to lower inflammation. This means less irritation in the brain and a heightened ability for your body to heal, recovery, repair and modulate pain. 

Eating more fat doesn’t mean eating spoonfuls of butter for breakfast. All it takes is gravitating towards a nutrient dense, whole food diet. Start by adding in foods like wild salmon, grass fed butter on roasted veggies, a spoonful of coconut oil in your smoothie, a quality grade fish oil supplement, or scrambled eggs.

I hope you found these suggestions helpful. Starting with any or all of these 5 steps takes you one step closer to lessening the frequency or severity of your headaches, and better yet, potentially getting rid of them for good. How amazing would that be?

If you have any questions please leave them below. Make it a great day.

-Dr. Jenna

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Guelph, ON N1H 3Y2

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