Self-management is a vital part of preventing headaches and migraines. As Novera Headache Center has grown and we’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of migraine and headache sufferers from around the world, we have developed a process that you can implement to take back control over your symptoms. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, in 2020 we began providing virtual treatment as an option to our patients. What we found is that people who were struggling with headaches and migraines still found a significant change in their symptoms through virtual care and self-management. If you’re wondering how this works, keep reading for our five reasons virtual care and self-management can work for you.
Every moment of your life can either be beneficial or contribute to higher amounts of tension and stress.
It’s usually a safe assumption that most people carry some sort of tension in their neck and shoulders. Whether this is from trauma, posture, or just overall stress, every patient we see in our clinic has some level of tension usually in these areas. For most of those people, that tension is driving the bulk of their headaches and migraine symptoms. Have you ever noticed that you rub your neck or stretch out your shoulders when you’re feeling some sort of discomfort during the day? This may occur even without head pain. Of course, other factors contribute to headaches and migraines, but we’re going to go into this believing that tension is something that you can have control over. Think about any activity you do in your day-to-day life – sitting, jogging, laying on the couch, working at your desk, etc. Are any of these activities placing stress on your body? Is your posture something that could be improved upon? What about your breathing mechanics? Does your chest move more than your abdomen when you take a breath? These are just a few examples of minor things that when you bring awareness to them, you can make small changes to reduce the tension it places on your body. Get time on your side by being mindful of these positions and little nuances throughout your day to see if it’s helpful or if it’s adding stress to your neck.
Understanding your symptoms can be powerful.
Understanding the root cause of the problem gives you a way to take action toward improving it. You no longer have to be a victim of symptoms but can instead take actionable and meaningful steps toward improving your health. It can also be incredibly validating to understand where these issues come from. Oftentimes, our patients intuitively know that their neck has tension and is an issue, but the connection to their head pain has been overlooked by their healthcare providers. Connecting the dots between your neck and your headache and migraine symptoms can change your mindset about the problem. In our reactive healthcare symptoms, if you go to your primary care doctor and describe the symptoms you have, they may just put you in the migraine category without providing any insight into the “why.” Most of the people we see want to understand why they’re experiencing what they’re experiencing, so just getting thrown into a category without much guidance doesn’t feel helpful. This can also create fear and anxiety around this migraine diagnosis. We’re here to provide more insight so you can take back control over your symptoms.
Our bodies have an incredible capacity to compensate and heal itself.
Self-management can be beneficial because our bodies are built to move. When we don’t move, have injuries, or have built up stress over time, we do a great job compensating and continue to function “normally.” On the other hand, if we can create compensation patterns to address movement problems, we can also heal by reversing those compensations. Our current healthcare model is built to be assumed that you need some sort of intervention to get well. The education provided about how the body can heal, whether that be the immune system or the way we’re physically made to handle certain stressors, isn’t always provided in clear and accessible ways. There are extremes here of course. On one end, you let the body do everything and never provide support. On the other end, the body can’t protect itself at all and we need to constantly intervene through things like medication. What we’ve found over the years as we’ve helped people with self-management, is that the body is very good at finding its way out of these compensation patterns. We love what we do because we’re restoring normal function to the body and addressing the underlying problem instead of slapping a bandaid on it or trying to alter another system. A big part of that is just providing guidance and allowing the body to progress in healthier movement patterns. When in the right environment, the body can heal itself as it’s intended. In general, most people can self-manage as long as there’s this shift in understanding towards “my body can heal itself and I’m able to control the environment that my body is in so that it’s able to do this.”
You intuitively know what your body likes or doesn’t like.
In our process of self-management, one of the things we see over and over again is that people intuitively know what their bodies need. Most people begin evaluating their symptoms as they go about their day. For example, tension building in their neck/jaw/shoulders is one of the most common ones we hear. The issue comes when you know something is off but aren’t receiving any validation or permission to fully think that because migraines are often considered a neurological disorder that has nothing to do with your neck. Because you already intuitively know that your body likes or dislikes something, when you’re permitted to lean into those things and actually believe yourself in knowing what will help make you better, the changes can be significant.
Think about the following questions:
- Do you notice an increase in tension during your work day (working at a computer, sitting, etc.)
- When you wake up, do you have headaches? Do you feel like you could reduce stress on your neck at night?
- What type of movement or exercise routine do you have? Do you feel like exercise would be helpful or harmful in your situation?
- What might you be doing during your day that is adding stress to your neck?
Thinking about all of these things can lead you to a better understanding of what your life looks like and where changes can be made. We’ve never had someone intuitively say that medication was the thing missing from their life. We have heard, however, that exercise, a better pillow, or a more comfortable work setup are things that should be changed.
Self-management can work for you because we have seen it work, time and time again.
Both with in-person and virtual care, we always include a level of self-management. It is integral to someone’s success as we take them through our process. Even for people who don’t come out to see us, providing insight and accountability has shown to be successful despite how basic it may sound. Empowerment to make changes in your life can make a profound difference.
So, now what? We hope that you take these five points and begin to think about your day-to-day life and feel motivated to make changes. If you aren’t seeing the dramatic changes you’re looking for, give our office a call or set up a discovery visit online. We’re here to provide guidance and education so you can take back control over your headache and migraine symptoms.