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HeadWay, Issue #012 -- Straight strength
July 21, 2004

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In this month's issue:

Straight stregth

Zap me!

Say what?! The Alexander Technique

Straight strength often overlooked treatment which may answer a lot of questions

It can not only trigger your migraines, it can also cause problems throughout your whole body, painful problems that get worse with age. It has been linked to depression, and it can be passed down from generation to generation, or just appear over time. Your migraines may seem to come out of nowhere, or they may be triggered by back or neck pain – all of which may be caused by this. What is it? Poor posture!

There's a difference of opinion about what good posture is, and how to learn it. Posture is incredibly important to your muscles, nerves, and everything in between. You need to have a strong, relaxed posture, and so you don't want to be tensing your body trying to stand like a soldier 24 hours a day. Then again, if you go into that so called relaxed slouch, you can pull muscles and pinch nerves.

What you need is not just a relaxed and strong standing posture, but a proper way of moving, bending, walking, sitting, and doing all your day to day tasks. If you've become used to bad posture, it will take a bit of work to relearn what you may have done intuitively as a child, but you may find in a few weeks that you have less pain, and you'll reap the benefits for the rest of your life.

Here are a few key things to remember when it comes to posture:
1. Your head is heavy! If it's full of brains, you'll realize that it's a lot of work for your body to hold it up it it's sagging way out in front. Keep it straight, upright and over your shoulders.
2. Try squeezing together your shoulder blades back and down. This points the way to proper shoulder and upper back posture.
3. Stand up straight but relaxed. Don't curve your back downward in a slouch, even when you're at the computer, brushing your teeth or bending down to pick something up.
4. Breath deep from your diaphragm. You'd be surprised how much this relaxes you and helps your posture. Babies do it, and think about how well they sleep!
5. Keep your lower back slightly curved, but push the bottom of your pelvis forward. This pulls your abdomen in.
6. Don't lock your knees – keep them slightly bent.

There's much more that could be said, but remembering these types of things will get you on the right road. WebMD has this brief but very helpful article on preventing back pain that will give you a few more practical suggestions.

Bad posture is giving me a headache – I need more help!
Here are two things I have found helpful personally. First, find a physical therapist that specializes in movement. She will point out bad habits that you may indulge in when you walk or bend.

Second, take a look at the book “The Posture Prescription” by Dr Arthur White. You will learn how to make good posture a part of everyday life, and how to improve your strength and tone while you brush your teeth, wait at a stop light and eat breakfast. Even if you don't follow all the suggestions in the book, taking even some of his tips to heart will improve your quality of life and hopefully take a bite out of headache pain in the short and long term. Note that because Dr White wants to integrate exercise into your everyday life, he almost discourages exercise programs. I wouldn't go that far. But remember that whether you're starting a program or just trying to correct posture, don't expect to be able to do it all on your first day.

Zap me!

As electrical charges in the body became more understood in the last century, researchers began to find ways to use devices to stimulate muscles and nerves. The pacemaker was an early achievement that has had great success for people with heart problems.

But the research is far from over. Muscle and nerve stimulation continues to be a major point of research. For example, vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is being used for many patients that have epilepsy, and even depression. Migraineurs will recognize that very often drug treatments for these two ailments have also been effective for migraine treatment. Is VNS another possible example? Research is just starting to investigate.

A VNS device is similar to a pacemaker. It's implanted by surgery (usually outpatient) in the upper part of the chest, and a wire runs up to the vagus nerve in the neck. It's programmed to stimulate that nerve at various intervals.

We have yet to see if this may be a way of treating migraine. Even if it is, it's likely to be a last resort for patients who have tried non-surgical alternatives. But keep your eyes open for more alternative surgical treatments like this. You may be able to leave some of the more damaging drugs – and your migraine symptoms – behind.

Say what?! The Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is a very popular way to obtain better posture. It is always done with the help of a professional – not because you're too stupid to do it on your own, but because it often requires an extra pair of hands. Visit to find out more about the Alexander Technique.


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