Instant Relief: Tell Me Where It Hurts and I'll Tell You What to Do

Instant Relief: Tell Me Where It Hurts and I'll Tell You What to Do

by Peggy Brill

ISBN: 9780553381870

Publisher Bantam

Published in Calendars/Diet & Health

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One

Your Head

If you are one of the millions of Americans prone to being sidelined by crippling headaches, it's time for a change. Although most people think that headaches are a normal and inevitable result of stress, headaches need not be the norm for you. I have a number of quick treatment options that have made most of my patients' stress-related headaches disappear fast-and they can do the same for you.

Using the simple techniques in this book, you will be able to take control and relieve headaches once you feel their symptoms coming on. There's no need to wait thirty minutes for an over-the-counter medication to kick in when you can get Instant Relief without any medication at all.

My techniques work because they are based on an understanding of the way stress affects the muscles that support the head, causing mechanical headaches. When you're under stress, you tend to tighten the muscles in the neck, skull, and face. These tight muscles can cause both vascular compression and nerve compression. Vascular compression means that blood vessels are being squeezed and can't deliver adequate oxygen to cells. Nerve compression results in less-than-optimum electrical-impulse delivery to muscles and inhibits muscular function.

Emotional stress, however, is not the only reason for mechanical headaches. The tight muscles that lead to so-called "mechanical headaches" also occur when you spend too long a time in a posture that forces your head out of what we call its neutral position. In the neutral position the head sits directly atop the neck in an alignment of relaxed verticality, which follows the gentle S shape of the entire spine with its curves at the neck, upper back, and lower back. If it remains in this position, the head will be well supported by all the vertebrae immediately below it-the vertebrae of the neck (the cervical spine) and the upper back (the thoracic spine), as well as the lumbar and sacral vertebrae-and also by the muscles and ligaments that connect to these vertebrae. The head needs all the support it can get, because it weighs between ten and twelve pounds-the weight of a bowling ball.

Unfortunately, your head is likely to spend much of its time without adequate support, because you put it into postures that take it out of neutral. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, for example, with your head tilted to hold the phone between your ear and your shoulder ("phone hugging"), you're forcing your head out of neutral position. If you spend a lot of time with your head in a protruded position, with the ears far forward of the shoulders-a position assumed by millions of people every day as they stare at their computer screens or bend over their paperwork-the head doesn't get the support it needs. Any posture that takes your head out of neutral position for an extended period of time has the potential to cause a headache because of the muscle tightening that results, and the vascular and nerve compression that result from muscle tightening.

There's another kind of nerve compression that can also result in a headache. Several of the twelve cranial nerves, which originate in the brain and are responsible for many functions, including the special senses of sight, hearing, smelling, and taste, pass through small openings at the base of the skull. If those nerves get compressed because of deviations in the head's normal position, they too can cause headaches.

Relieving your headache, however, may not be as simple as returning your head to its neutral position. If the head has remained in a protruded position for an extended period of time, bringing it back to neutral can stretch tight tissues, which leads to that common achiness in the back of the head, or above the ear or the eye on one side of the head. Even the scalp can become tense and cause discomfort. That's why I've provided a Brill exercise called a Scalp Glide (Exercise 7), which releases scalp tension.

Headaches are not the only problem to result from poor alignment. It can potentially cause long-term damage, too, because when the head spends much of its time in a protruded position, you are creating a situation that is like adding a hundred pounds of force on the vertebrae that support the head. This force compresses the disks between the vertebrae of the lower neck, causing particular wear and tear on the topmost vertebra (the atlas). If you don't balance these distortions of the head's natural alignment with movements in the opposite direction, you may experience early degeneration of the spine. Doing the Brill exercises will help prevent long-term damage.

The major focus of the Brill exercises, however, is on immediate pain relief. Most of the exercises I suggest for headaches emphasize sustaining a position that stretches the muscles of the upper neck and balances the out-of-neutral postures in which we spend so much of our time. By relieving compression in the upper neck, they help restore maximum blood flow and nerve function, which I've found to be the most effective way to relieve headaches quickly. But sometimes that kind of stretching doesn't work, and you're more likely to get relief if you tighten the already-tight muscles even more, holding your head in the extreme protruded position until the muscles finally relax. (See Exercise 12, Prone Neck Protrusion/Retraction, which does both.) It seems illogical, but it can be quite effective.

So try the Brill exercises, and see which ones work best for you. Don't let a headache overtake you-knock it out fast, and get on with your life.

Instant Relief for a Tension Headache

If, like so many millions of people, you clench your teeth or scowl when you're under stress, you probably get tension headaches, and you may feel pain or tightness in your jaw as well.

Here are several fast exercises that can relax the clenching and scowling motion and can be done whether you are sitting, standing, or lying down. Other exercises in this chapter work directly on the muscles of the eyes, the scalp, and the sinuses, another source of headache.

3. Tongue Press

The jaw, which works like a hinge, is able to open and close thanks to the muscles of the jaw. These muscles attach to the sides of the upper vertebrae in the neck, which are located just behind the ears. When those muscles become imbalanced-from sleeping on one side or from an altered bite, which could be caused by a broken crown, an unevenly filled tooth, teeth grinding, or even nail biting-you'll feel the impact in your jaw.

This nifty movement helps the jaw muscles by employing the tongue as a spring to align the hinges of the jaw so that they open and close normally, thus retraining the muscles to work symmetrically.

* Sit or stand up straight with your head facing forward, or lie on your back with your face toward the ceiling.

* Relax your jaw and mouth.

* Push the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth behind your upper teeth.

* Open and close your mouth, with your tongue against the roof of your mouth, ten times.

4. Ear Tug

You might find it hard to believe, but this movement eases a tense jaw by elongating tissues that tend to get tight and tense where the ear meets the neck. From the back of the neck to the front, this "tug" relaxes muscles. It also relieves pressure in the inner ear caused by grinding teeth or clenching a jaw. If your ears feel "full" when you fly, doing this tug will decompress the pressure in your ears.

* Sit or stand up straight with your head facing forward, or lie on your back with your face toward the ceiling.

* Grasp your earlobes with your index fingers just inside the ears and your thumbs just behind.

* Gently pull your ears down and out, and hold them for a count of ten.

5. Cheek Release

If you grind your teeth or are prone to sinus headaches or jaw tension, doing this movement will relax the buccinator muscles, the sucking muscles in your cheeks, which keep the food between your teeth as you chew. As you do it, you may be reminded of that "face" you made behind someone's back when you were in school. But now you can put it to more practical use.

* Sit or stand up straight with your head facing forward, or lie on your back with your face toward the ceiling.

* Place your index fingers inside your cheeks.

* Gently pull your cheeks outward without straining your lips, and take a deep breath. Slowly exhale as you silently count to ten.

6. Tongue Loop

If your voice cracks and lowers when you get nervous, try this exercise, which rebalances the muscles attached to the tongue, as well as the muscles in the front of the neck that support the tongue and therefore affect how you speak.

When you do this Brill exercise the first time, you might find that it's easier to do in one direction. That is a sure sign that the length and strength of the muscles on either side of the neck and the tongue are out of balance.

* Sit or stand up straight with your head facing forward, or lie on your back with your face toward the ceiling.

* Stick out your tongue.

* Rotate your tongue slowly around your lips five times in one direction and then five times in the other direction.

7. Scalp Glide

Here's a way to release tension in the connective tissue between muscles in the front and back of your scalp. When you frown, muscles in the back of your scalp tense. Doing this gliding motion stretches the muscles that extend from the forehead up into the scalp as well as those that extend from the back of the head up into the scalp.

* Sit or stand up straight with your head facing forward, or lie on your back with your face toward the ceiling.

* Place your palms at the top of your forehead with fingers touching the scalp on either side.

* Glide the flesh of your scalp back and forth over your skull with your hands. Repeat ten times.

8. Forehead Roll

Not only will this movement relieve a tension headache, it's also great for easing eyestrain, draining clogged sinuses, and relieving forehead tension. If you spend long hours doing paperwork or logging in computer time, this one is for you.

* Sit or stand up straight with your head facing forward, or lie on your back with your face toward the ceiling.

* Place the index and middle fingers of both hands an inch above your eyebrows.

* Roll the skin under your fingers inward for a count of five.

* Roll the skin under your fingers outward for a count of five.

Eyestrain Relievers

To understand why you may be feeling eyestrain, think of your retinas as screens and your eye muscles as the focus mechanisms. The muscles are responsible for coordinating eye functions so that your vision can move from object to object.

But when you read for long periods of time with your eyes cast downward, for instance, you shorten and tighten certain eye muscles. Or if you have to look to one side to view your computer screen or protrude your neck in an attempt to get closer to it, these positions will weaken other eye muscles. That's why I always recommend setting up a computer where the screen is directly in front of you, an arm's length away. Placing papers on a slanted surface instead of flat in front of you will also help to balance eye muscles-while having the additional virtue of encouraging good posture.

In the meantime, if you've been attempting to read the fine print in tax forms, straining to look at your computer screen, or sitting through a one-day airing of a twelve-part TV series, try these eyestrain relievers. They will rebalance the five eye muscles you use to bring images to the retina efficiently.

9. Eye Calisthenics (Straight)

* Sit or stand up straight with your head facing forward, or lie on your back with your face toward the ceiling.

* Roll your eyes up until you feel a slight ache in your eyes. Hold that position for a second or two. Then release your eyes to their normal position.

* Repeat the upward gaze and release five times.

* Close your eyes for the count of five.

10. Eye Calisthenics (Diagonal)

* Sit or stand up straight with your head facing forward, or lie on your back with your face toward the ceiling.

* Look to the upper right and then to the lower left five times.

* Look to the upper left and then to the lower right five times.

* Put your hands together and rub them quickly until warm.

* Close your eyes, and place your warmed hands over them.

* Pull your eyes back into your head. (You'll feel them retract in their sockets.)

* Hold the position for a count of ten to let the eye muscles recover.

11. Sinus Drainer

Congested sinuses hurt, and they may make your head hurt, too. There are many different reasons why your four sinuses may become congested with mucus. The common cold is one culprit. Pollutants, irritants, pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold, and mildew are other possible causes. To help your sinuses drain, try alternating five-minute applications of hot and cold compresses. Drinking hot water with lemon also helps to break up congestion. Avoid dairy foods and sugar, as they promote the formation of mucus.

If you suffer from sinus pain that worsens when you're under stress, try this:

* Sit or stand up straight with your head facing forward, or lie on your back with your face toward the ceiling.

* Place the index and middle fingers of each hand under your eyes and gently make circles toward the nose ten times.

12. Prone Neck Protrusion/Retraction

* Lie on your stomach, propped up on your elbows. (I like to call this the "cartoon" position, because that's how kids often watch TV.)

* Wrap your hands around your face with your wrists touching under your chin and your fingers resting on your cheeks.

* Take a deep breath.

* Hyperextend your head forward (protrusion phase) and hold for the count of ten. Exhale.

* Take a deep breath.

* Bring your head back with your chin tucked down (retraction phase), and hold for a count of ten. Exhale.

If your headache dissipates in response to this Brill exercise but doesn't vanish completely, hold the position in which you found relief for sixty seconds.

Chapter Two

Your Neck

If stress strikes you in the neck, you have lots of company. That's probably why the expression "a pain in the neck" is part of our everyday language. If your neck is often so tight and tense that you can't turn or bend or lift your head without wincing, this section is specifically for you. But before giving you the Brill exercises for the neck, I have several commonsense do's and don'ts that will help. First, stop slouching. If you're in pain, sitting and standing straight can go a long way toward relieving the strain you're putting on your neck. Also, take frequent stretch breaks, especially if you put in long hours reading or working at the computer. And if you've been rotating your head in a full circular motion in order to relieve the pain, don't do it! This motion tends to compress the neck vertebrae, which will pinch nerves and irritate your neck even more.


Excerpted from "Instant Relief: Tell Me Where It Hurts and I'll Tell You What to Do" by Peggy Brill. Copyright © 2003 by Peggy Brill. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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