A Headache is Not an Aspirin Deficiency!
By Scott K. Mathison, BS, LMT, NCTMB
Taking a drug for a headache only gives temporary relief, whether it is a tension headache or a migraine. If you are looking for treatment of the problem rather than temporary relief, read on.
Trigger points are not something that most people know about, but many have felt their effects. The definition of a trigger point is an area of low neurological activity that when stimulated or stressed, transforms into an area of high neurological activity with referred sensations to other parts of the body.
So what does that mean??
With headaches it can mean when I put pressure on a muscle in the back of the neck, it may refer up into your head; actually replicating your headache feeling. The trigger point in the neck may be the root cause of the headache. This has been the case for 9 of 10 people who have come to my office over the past 20 years for headaches and migraines.
For example, if your stress level is high, chances are that the muscle tension is as well. Constantly tense muscles can, in turn, develop trigger point referrals. The muscles constrict the blood vessels and nerves, creating a dysfunctional situation. The oxygen and nutrients the muscle needs are not getting in and the by-products of muscle metabolism (lactic acid for example) are not getting out. This creates a very tender muscle. This also affects all the muscles from the point of constriction on, to where the nerves and vessels end. Where you feel the pain and where it starts can be two different spots. No worries. I’m very familiar with where they are.
Other Possible Causes
- If you have any postural distortions; meaning your head may tilt somewhat to one side or one shoulder sits higher than the other or if your head protrudes forward somewhat, it can cause trigger points in the muscles. If you have ever had any trauma such as a car accident (no matter how long ago it was), you may very well have trigger points.
- If you have any TMJ dysfunction it can most definitely cause trigger point referrals to your head. I may have to treat your TMJ to complete your lasting headache relief.
- Hormonal imbalance and allergies (including gluten) may also be part of your Total Health analysis to relieving your headaches.
- How you walk can have its affect. For example, if you wag your head from side to side as you walk it can be like tiny whiplashed with each step. I am able to correct this by stabilizing the pelvis.
- Cranial bones do move! Sounds weird, but cranial plates can shift causing sinus dysfunction, TMJ dysfunction and, of course, headaches. I have a gentle technique to allow proper balance to the head.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Continue to take your antioxidant vitamins.
- Create a time and a place for daily relaxation, with slower and deeper breathing.
- Adjust your chair, desk and computer height to allow for 90 degree angles of the joints of the knee, hip and elbows, while looking nearing straight ahead at your screen or very slightly downward.
- Have your eyes checked for a proper prescription.
- Exercise – it releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural morphine-like chemical. Exercise also increases circulation and is an emotional outlet as well.
As always, please contact me with any questions you may have regarding your pain. A call to me won’t hurt at all.
A Solution to Your TMJ
Scott K. Mathison, BS, LMT, NCTMB
Are you being treated for your symptoms of jaw pain or are you being treated for the problems causing it? This is an important question. If you are somewhat unsure of the answer, please read on.
Before I move on to treatments for TMJ, ask yourself if you, or someone you know has any of these symptoms, which range from mild discomfort to excruciating agony. TMJ sufferers can have one or more of the following:
- Clicking and popping in the jaw
- A jaw that locks open
- Difficulty chewing
- Light bothers eyes
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Chronic neck/facial pain
- Post-nasal drip
- Eye inflammation
Let me give you a brief definition of TMJ. TMJ is actually the abbreviation for Temporal Mandibular Joint. This joint is in the jaw – just in from of the ear – and permits the opening and closing of the mouth. The name of a joint is not really a problem. What this abbreviation has come to represent is one of two things; TMJ Dysfunction or Myofascial Pain Dysfunction, which is abbreviated MPD.
TMJ Dysfunction is a problem with the joint mechanism itself. This can be inflammation, fracture, or arthritis.
MPD is muscle and connective tissue pain as a result of chronic over-use, whiplash, stress, or and most often are rooted in a posture problem. Restricted or stressed muscles are the cause of the great majority of “TMJ” problems. Trigger point referrals from these muscles can result in headaches, neck pain, sinus problems, etc.
Statistically 75 million Americans suffer from some form of “TMJ”. 20 million are never successfully treated. This does not have to be the case. 98% of the manifestations of pain and dysfunction in the joint have their root in postural problems, muscle over-accommodations and muscle hypertonicity (too much tone or a spastic muscle). Many muscles are attached to the joint and can push or pull the joint out of position, causing more muscle hypertonicity. A conservative, non-invasive, non-surgical therapy is the first and best therapy, and helps 97% of patients.
Diagnosis is Diffcult
Why are there so many 0eople left with this problem? “So few doctors know about TMJ Dysfunction or MPD that proper diagnosis is difficult,” says Gelb, a pioneer in treating the TMJ, and author of Killing Pain Without Prescriptions (Harper & Row). “improper diagnosis and treatment with painkillers and other drugs put patients on hold and doesn’t correct the problem,” he adds.
Dr. Farrar, a dentist who has been treating TMJ Dysfunction and MPD says, “The medical people have thrown up their arms. The dentists are arguing and the patients are stuck in the middle.” He goes on to say that proper diagnosis of the disorder in needed. The American Dental Association recommends that only reversible treatment be attempted at first. That means don’t have your teeth ground or crowned until other reversible methods have been tried. My personal preference for treatment is a whole body approach that brings about permanent relieve such as Neuromuscular Therapy or my A.S.A.P. Method.
With more than 20 years of experience in treating TMJ problems, I have a toolbox of treatment methods that allow for a precise analysis and treatment technique to alleviate a person’s pain. I personally have seen great results from those who have come to my office in desperation. At the Total Health Center, I look at the whole picture and all the possibilities of how, other than just the jaw, this problem manifests itself in a person.
A Question of Posture
One of the possibilities is a person’s posture. Think about it. If you build a house on an unlevel foundation, won’t the floors, walls, and roof also be unlevel? This is true for the human body. Every living thing – whether it is a person or a squirrel – has a center of gravity. Our center is about four finger widths below our navel. If our pelvis (foundation) is crooked our head (roof) is crooked. For example, if someone is properly aligned, and you view them from the side, you can draw a vertical line from the middle of the ear to the middle of the shoulder to the middle of the hip to the middle of the knee to the middle of the ankle. From the front, one side should match the other horizontally. For example, one shoulder should not be higher than the other and the head should be straight vertically.
The previous paragraph is a simplified description of correct posture. Unfortunately, as we go through the bumps and bruises of life - as we sit at computers, we get thrown off this perfect alignment, but we always keep our eyes even with the horizon! This is an important aspect of postural effects of MPD. If the muscles of your of your left hip are tighter than the muscles on the right hip, your pelvis tilts. Now your upper body leans to the right to compensate, and then your head tilts back slightly to compensate once again so your eyes are even with the horizon. Imagine the “S” this creates in the spine. Since the jaw mimics the pelvis, it becomes uneven as well. With a forward head posture, which is common for those who drive or sit at a desk, this also misaligns the jaw. Try this. Sitting straight up bring your teeth together and bite. Feel where the teeth touch. Now tilt your head completely over to the right. Slowly bite together and feel how they begin to touch differently. This same happens with the head forward or backward. This is also what happens when the posture is not properly aligned.
To resolve this problem, I align your posture and give you methods to maintain this posture. For twenty years I have had the joy of restoring health to nagging jaws with non-invasive and gentle techniques. When you have tried everything else or would rather not go down an expensive road without results, please give me a call.
My Approach to Fibromyalgia
Scott K. Mathison, BS, LMT, NCTMB
What is Fibromyalgia?
First off, it has been called many names in the past including, but not limited to, Fibrositis, Chronic Pain Syndrome, Rheumatic Pain Modulation Disorder, and many more. Fibromyalgia, the preferred term, broken down means "fibro" referring to connective tissue and "my" referring to muscles and "algia" referring to pain; specifically in the previous mentioned areas of muscle and tendons. People with this condition feel achy, sometimes all over but, especially around the neck, truck and hips. They tend to be stiff in the morning after a restless night's sleep and feel more fatigue as the day goes by. Yet with aggressive efforts to find a specific abnormality, researchers have come up virtually empty handed. Fibromyalgia is characterized by pain, tenderness and stiffness of the joints and muscles. Symptoms may include fatigue, insomnia, depression, skin sensitivity, poor stress tolerance, irritable bowels, migraines, chronic muscle aches, numbness and tingling in the extremities...a general feeling of unwellness. You or someone you know may suffer from some or all of these symptoms, and possibly other symptoms as well.
The presence of trigger points is the method of diagnosis in the doctor's office. The presence of trigger points sets a course of treatment in my office. I could write an entire article on trigger points, so please excuse the following brief (and not so scientific) description. Trigger points are tender points, with exaggerated muscle tenderness in fairly precise sites. When pressed even lightly these points can hurt and often they can refer to another area in the body. For example, pressing a trigger point on your hip may cause a felling of pressure or tingling down the leg. Or a point at the base of the skull may refer up the back of the head and even into the eyes, sometimes thought to be migraines. I work by releasing the muscles at these points, allowing proper blood flow to the muscle which in turn oxygenates the muscle, brings in nutrients, and carries out toxins and by-products of muscle metabolism such as lactic acid. This creates healthy tissue and therefore reduces or eliminates the pain in the muscles.
I do align the posture allowing you to carry yourself in space properly. This alone is vital. "Perfect posture - no pain" is my slogan.
To take a total health approach let us look at a few other helpful hints to improve your condition.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are not much help. The problem is that there is no inflammation and it is suspected that in the long term they make the condition worse. My patients tell me muscle relaxants tend to knock them out or leave them too groggy to function properly. Low doses of anti-depressants are used to help with reaching the deep sleep discussed later in this article. The most recent drug used is Lyrica (pregabalin) an anti-epileptic drug, also called an anticonvulsant. Lyrica has many side effects. I picked one side effect from www.drugs.com. "You may have thoughts about suicide while taking this medication. Tell your doctor if you have new or worsening depression or suicidal thoughts during the first several months of treatment, or whenever your dose is changed." If I'm suffering from pain, that is not a side effect I want.
As with any exercise program, check with your doctor first. Aerobic exercise of a low - or - no impact source such as walking, biking or low impact aerobics are some of your options. Raising the heart rate, creating blood flow and releasing endorphins aids in oxygenating the muscles, improving sleep patterns, raising the metabolic rate, and give a feeling of well being. Improving sleep pattern is extremely important.
Start slow. The balance of exercise and rest is critical! Moving into a rigorous program too fast can increase the pain pattern. You cannot afford to make this mistake. I like to progress a patient from walking, to something such as Tai Chi or yoga or some other flexibility incorporated program. From there an increase in activity can be moved into with patience and baby steps.
In my opinion, the largest indicator of Fibromyalgia is someone's deep sleep stage is interrupted. This is the stage of sleep that allows for the muscles to fully relax. If you are missing stage 4 sleep you are not getting the rest you so desperately need. Low doses of anti-depressants are being prescribed for this. This is a course of treatment you will have to decide on yourself. I always hope for this to be temporary measure. Bottom line. You need good sleep!
Reducing or eliminating wheat (gluten), and lowering your intake of dairy, sugar and caffeine while increasing your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables is highly recommended. I think supplementing with appropriate nutrients is just plain smart. That's why I carry a full line of vitamins and supplements.
Relaxation and what you do with life's circumstances (stress) is no longer a luxury, but a necessary part of your recovery process. Seeing me for a session is a one-hour window allowing a relaxation response. The other 167 hours of the week will require some awareness on your part. I have a wealth of information to share with you on this subject that I would be happy to discuss at your session. I do believe it is not so much what happens to you as what you do with what happens to you that makes the difference here. Better choices make for better results.
In closing, I would like to make myself available to any questions you may have about Fibromyalgia or what my practice offers. Feel free to contact me.