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DR. KESTNER: Some people luckier than others

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I see patients for a wide range of musculo-skeletal complaints such as neck and back pain, joint pain and arthritis. 

Because we offer acupuncture as well as chiropractic and rehab training, we will also see patients with neurological complaints such as numbness and tingling, peripheral neuralgia and headache.  I always inquire about headaches in a health history.

Recently, a patient told me that he could not imagine what a headache felt like.  He told me that his wife had a terrible problem with headaches, but he had never experienced any type of head pain.  I told him that he was a lucky man indeed.

Some people just seem to be more fortunate than others when it comes to health issues.  Although it is important to take care of yourself and do the things that contribute to good health, some people will simply tend to have more problems than others.

Unfortunately, of all the choices you or I can make in life, choosing our genetic code isn’t one of them.  We are stuck with our genes as they are, for better or worse.

There are some choices we can make to compensate for being dealt a bad hand, however.  Regardless of our predisposition toward certain diseases or health conditions, some choices we can make can be the difference between feeling fine or miserable.

If you happen to be someone that is unlucky in terms of headache problems, spending some time to learn how to prevent the headaches can be very valuable.

Many patients that I see have tried various pharmaceutical approaches to preventing headaches.  Often they tell me that their physician has recommended taking certain drugs on a regular basis to prevent the onset of headache.

While this may sometimes be the only solution, in many cases there are very successful drug-free options that can minimize or eliminate headaches.  Any solution that works without taking drugs avoids the very real problem of drug side effects.

My primary emphasis with patients that complain of frequent or recurring headaches is to seek a solution that can resolve the problem if possible.  

Besides providing treatment such as chiropractic care or acupuncture, certain rehab exercises have proven very beneficial to headache prevention.

I also spend time asking patients about behaviors that may be causing headaches.  Often patients are doing something that can actually be contributing to their headache problem without realizing it.

One common example is excessive use of a computer mouse.  This can cause tightness and spasm in the shoulder, upper back and neck muscles that can lead to headaches. Interestingly, the patient      doesn’t feel the headache until the next morning, so it is not obvious that there is a cause and effect relationship.

Another culprit is the posture that a patient adopts while relaxing in the evening, perhaps watching television or using a tablet computer, e-reader or video game.  Again, the headache often does not appear until morning, so it may be surprising that the cause occurred the evening before.

These are just a couple of examples of how people can create their own “bad luck.”  Poor dietary habits, excesses of   various kinds and other behavioral causes of headache can be modified.

Some people are sensitive to food          additive such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives and colors.  Careful              observation and experimentation can often help   determine which substances cause the headaches.

Modifying your behavior may help      prevent headaches.  For example, switching a computer mouse to using a trackball mouse has helped many people have less pain.  Creating a more ergonomic work environment can help.  (Although it may cost money to modify your work station, the money is probably well spent.  You may be able to reduce neck and back pain as well as headache by improving the ergonomics of your work desk.)

Doing some relaxing stretches before and after you spend a long time in a sitting position can help prevent headaches, neck and back pain.  

By considering what behavioral or environmental conditions may be aggravating to a headache problem, it may be possible to change your luck for the better.

Next week:  How to use the glycemic index to lose weight and improve your health.

Read more from:
Headache, Health, Health Care, Living Well, Mark Kestner, Voices
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