With a history of Fibromyalgia, Adrenal Fatigue and ADHD tendencies, my most debilitating issue has been on and off chronic headaches. When I was in my early to mid twenties, I went for a year where I had headaches about 50% of the time. Conventional medication never helped, and I had developed a block for physical therapy which never produced immediate results.
At that time, I finally found relief through a series of neck stretches, I believe they were called myofascal stretches, based on gently stretching the myofacia, which is found over the muscles. As I'm not a medical professional, this is my oversimplification of what I remember. The big difference between these stretches and the physical therapy I had tried and failed at is that they were extremely minute gentle stretches I held for a minute or so each while the myofacia released. I have included a description of these stretches that I wrote a while back at the end of the post in case you are curious.
The last few years, while the stretches have helped, I often feel on the verge of a headache, and am prone to brain fog. Stopping to check in with my body is crucial - but I was finding myself taking ibuprofen way too often. After my son's birth, I learned that ibuprofen could work for me, but only in very large doses of 600+ mg, which I don't feel comfortable taking regularly to protect my liver.
Enter my Family Essentials Kit! I discovered that peppermint, frankincense and lavender are three of the top oils for headaches and they are all in that kit! I put equal parts in a small rollerball and apply to the base of my head and behind my ears when I start to feel tension there. You can also put some on your temples but be careful with proximity to your eyes as peppermint can sting. Be sure to wash your hands if you get it on them before touching eyes or other sensitive parts.
Essential Oil Blend for Headache & Brain Fog:
Apply to the back of the head, behind ears and on temples as needed.
I was a chronic physical therapy dropout until I was trying to get pregnant and stuck to it until the physical therapist gave up on me. At that point, I got referred to acupuncture. However, there has been one stretching tool that made such a difference that I did them religiously for about 5 years. These stretches targeted my chronic headaches that I had had about 50% of the time for at least a year. The headaches stopped, and as long as I kept them up, they didn't come back. After a while I got out of the habit, and it probably took another 5 years before the headaches came back. Now I'm back to doing them every night. I have searched online for something describing these stretches, but can't find anything that does. I decided to share here what worked for me.
Fascia is the connective tissue surrounding your cells. The way it was described to me, if you over stretch, the fascia can snap back like a rubber band. Myofascal stretching uses micro stretches that you hold for a minute or so until you feel a release. The ones I did focused on my neck tension. It is important to note that the pictures below are exaggerated to show the difference in each move. When I actually started doing them, you could barely see my head move. The key is to stop the second you feel a slight stretch - not pain. Then hold for a minute.
Nightly headache prevention stretches:
1. Look down - hold
2. Tilt head to the side - hold
3. Keep head tilted and look down - hold
4. Keep head tilted and look up - hold
5. Repeat steps 2-4 on other side
The above stretches worked most of the time and kept not only headaches at bay, but also improved my tendency to get car sick. I have, on occasion though, experienced nauseous headaches or motion sickness. The following stretches help with nausea so much that I stop and do them any time I feel it coming on, and they stop it in its tracks!
1. Lean head back with head support, either behind your head upright, or laying down (a towel behind your neck to support is helpful)
2. Look to one side - hold
3. Look to the other side - hold
This concept can be applied to other areas of tension by just passively stretching the area that is tense and holding for a minute or until released. I have done this when my jaw is tight by simply holding my mouth open. Just remember to stop and hold at a slight stretch sensation and before it feels like pain.