Headaches, a Pain in the Neck?

A Literal Pain in the Neck: Avoiding Headaches for the Upcoming School Year

Our busy, accustomed school schedules took a sharp turn in March of 2020 due to the historic pandemic of COVID-19. Summer offered a slight reset, but now the moment is here for parents, teachers, and students to tackle and adapt together. As we brace for the roller coaster ride, developing a balance for mental and physical health is crucial for ourselves and the ones we love. Being both a physical therapist and a mom of school-age children, I would like to offer advice pertaining to strategies of tackling the effects of stress and poor posture that can cause that literal “pain in the neck.”

Let’s first talk about stress and lack of sleep, which we all have felt the past few months one way or another. Physically, stress can trigger inflammation that can resurface old injuries or chronic pain. Muscles will become taut and cause guarding positions that can release quickly or slowly. Sometimes we will even stop breathing and not realize our tension. Those lovely tension headaches that occurred before COVID-19 are likely to not go away time soon and will need attention. Lack of sleep will also cause muscle tension that may result in headaches. Headaches fortunately resolve but can remain nagging and ongoing, in which the pain affects our moods and shortens our patience level. We need every amount of energy for our daily lives and getting insight into modifications from a physical therapist can make a world of difference in self-management.

Poor posture is a sneaky contributor to that pain in the neck. Much of the time we do not realize until it’s too late. Most days we can get away with it, but eventually, it catches up to all of us. It is not common to treat younger kids for headaches, but they can certainly voice complaints of neck and upper back pain. Prolong sitting, poor head posture, and lack of exercise largely contribute and maybe another added stress to parents. Setting them up for success is a significant role parents can help as well as moderation to balance sitting for studying and movement for the exercise.

Checklist for a work station

  1. The correct height of chair and desk
  2. Back support
  3. Computer or tablet at eye level
  4. 30-minute breaks from sitting
  5. Feet flat on the floor
  6. Adequate lighting

Taking breaks and exercise was a HUGE coping strategy I used with my own children when doing homeschool. Every morning we started with yoga, thank you free YouTube videos!

As they stretched and got moving for the day, I set up their work station to get after their assignments. We would take little breaks about mid-morning and worked until lunchtime if needed. We became flexible as the weather got nice and got fresh air whenever we were able. The benefits of movement and exercise are imperative to implement both mentally and physically to get through the necessary educational skills also required for success.

Unexpected events not just relating to this upcoming school year will undoubtedly occur, thanks to 2020. Many things we cannot control, but finding a physical therapist to acquire education and treatment in dealing with those nagging, literal “pain in the necks” may lessen one extra headache.

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