Learning with laughter

Do you suffer from HEADACHES? You are Not alone!

June 29th, 2010

About 45 million Americans suffer from chronic recurring headaches. Exact cause of migraines and other headaches are still not understood fully.

Over 20 muscles (primarily of the neck) refer pain to the head. Several refer pain specifically to the eye. At least three refer pain directly to the teeth for reasons that will never be relieved by fillings or repeated root canals. Teeth are extracted with no relief of symptoms!

How is a doctor or dentist who gets minimal or no education on this area ever meant to diagnose or understand sinus ear and facial pain? No wonder so many chronic pains have a psychogenic component with the sufferer feeling anxious, alone and worried.   Strangely, it is rarely applied to other chronic body pain. Even as a specialist in TMD I find on a daily basis there is always something new to learn

As mentioned before with very little education and high expectations that our medical professionals must know everything and have time to listen, patients are disappointed when treatment is often geared at symptom relief with drugs. Dental procedures, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic osteopathic and physiotherapy should all, in a perfect world, be recommended. The only constant in life is CHANGE therefore different perspective and beliefs for a cure have varied! In the old days they would drill a hole in your head! Clinically I have success treating headaches using cranial sacral osteopathy techniques, massage and encouraging patients to change poor lifestyle choices. This is not easy when most of us have invested a lifetime developing poor habits, which unknown to us keep layering on symptoms. Clinically I listen to a variety of lifetime symptoms and try to put the puzzle pieces together which forms an intriguing bigger picture.

Change in Habits

I find I tick off the same “causal” boxes. For example: If the child has a narrow face & palate, I can usually predict that they will have had some orthodontic work and what athletic endeavors (which are anaerobic) due to poor posture reducing airway efficiency, breathing and jaw position.

Ever take an ibuprofen or Tylenol for a headache? Ever think “I’d rather not take pills. I know they have side effects. Oh it’s easy what the heck!” As a physiotherapist treating chronic pain I notice that an overburdened health system often treat symptoms not the cause!

In the perfect scenario human ‘too busy doings” would take time and be paid to change lifestyle & poor work habits which might prevent problems happening in the first place. Humans do not stop poor habits until the body gets sick and then they want it to go away ‘yesterday’. This is tough on the practitioners.


Tension headaches, toothaches, facial pain & a stiff neck can be brought on by any number of factors such as cranium shapes from birth or in utero, malocclusion, (an undesirable relative positioning of the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed), whiplash, poor sleeping & sitting postures, pillows, heavy purses, cradling a phone between shoulder and neck, muscle fatigue, sinus infections, emotional turmoil, high blood pressure, food allergies and chemical sensitivities, or even due to repetitive motion activities. The list is endless, and eventually affects our physiology. Please note that headaches can be a sign of an underlying health condition, so if it is not a tension-type headache, seek professional medical help.

MUSCLES “trigger points” CAUSING HEADACHES (from Round Earth Publishing.) There are certain muscles on the head whose “trigger points” (see May’s newsletter) will give pain in specific areas. First let’s explore the Sternocleidomastoid. (SCM)


  1. SYMPTOMS; Dizziness, nausea, “migraine” and sinus, motion sickness, and balance problems”. It has an intimate involvement with brain stem and the Vagus nerve. (see below.)
  2. The SCM muscle of the neck produces a long list of neurological and pain symptoms which appear primarily in the head and face. These are commonly mistaken for migraine, sinus headache, inner-ear problems, trigeminal neuralgia — and so on. SCM has one of the most extensive patterns of pain and dysfunction, yet is one of the easiest muscles to self-treat.

As shown this is a two part muscle that connects the head/occiput to the front chest wall and can give a variety of “confusing” variety of symptoms to medical health professionals and patient. Note the red areas are where ache/pain is felt. The ‘x’ are the trigger points. No wonder a consultation is often sought to an ear nose and throat, & eye specialist. Often the symptom is treated not the source of the problem, then fear and anxiety raise the level of pain and people clench and grind their teeth and also have irrational thoughts! “I have a brain tumour! Eventually they develop insomnia and maybe depression worrying and are given sleeping pills and/or prozac. 70% of my clients are now on “Zoplicone’ –mild sleep sedative!

Other people self medicate with brown or red fluids! Whatever works!

True Story

I had a patient who complained of dizziness and thought her hearing had deteriorated. Of course she put that down to stress, a car accident (she had 3 months prior) and the aging process! She had consumed a variety of pills, consulted various medical professionals. I did some manual therapy on the neck joints and stretched & massaged sternomastoid muscle and her symptoms disappeared! In addition, education was given on changing her work /computer habits, posture and consult dentist about her bite.

Another True story

My daughter was about 6 months when she had her 1st ear infection and she complained of a sore head. Since birth she had difficulty nursing because her nose was congested. This led to a hungry cranky baby who was exhausted trying to nurse and could only feed for 5 minutes at a time and probably gulped as much air as milk! In those days most of my clothing had a “white stripe milk accessory” over one shoulder! Her sinus congestion and ear pain continued until she was 2 years old in which time she was on antibiotics constantly to treat nasal congestion and ear infections. I remember wondering why she cried when we would lay down on her right side to sleep…now I think her problem could have been a cranial strain from the birth trauma giving her a jaw and ear problem. Ear problems often occur while children are teething which puts undue forces on skull, jaw, TMJ, ears and Eustachian tubes. At age 2 she had ear tubes put in her ears and her pain disappeared.

I might mention that many of my patients have a variety of similar stories and the kids that suffer more, have a very narrow upper jaw- palate and cranium front to back. This often makes the teeth erupt in the mouth in what is called a dental crossbite. Depending what side this is, the jaw will shift towards it, compressing the jaw joint and ear. If the dentist can change the balance of the bite and stop the jaw shifting and/or widen the palate, the child has cranial /sacral treatment the ear /head pain will often disappear!

Many of my clients are not so lucky, and as adults are still on sinus and pain medication or having sinus surgery. This in my experience helps to start with, but often the symptoms return within the year, if body work is not done too

In addition to pain, do you know people who suffer from balance issues, runny & red eyes and swallowing /sinus congestion and nothing works…could be TP’s in this muscle.  See Cathy’s you tube video for stretching this muscle

Vagus Nerve -New Mums and grandparents read this if you are someone who wants to seek out another possible cause of sleepless nights!

Dr. Viola Frymann, who did research on babies believed that musculoskeletal strains on the newborn during delivery can cause problems throughout life …9 out of 10 babies are affected

Symptoms are difficulty sucking efficiently, vomit after feeding. Sadly, such symptoms are considered “normal”. At birth, the occiput (base of skull) is made of 4 bones united by an intraosseous developmental cartilage. It articulates with the atlas (1st cervical vertebra). Passing between the basi occiput and the atlas condyle is the 12th nerve which innervates the tongue. When this nerve is compromised by forward compression of the condylar part, the baby may fail to take hold of the nipple and suck effectively for a day or two or even days. These become the children with tongue thrusting, deviate swallowing speech problems and even malocclusion. This developmental articulation forms the posterior medial wall of the jugular foramen which not only gives passage to 95% of the venous drainage of the head but also to cranial nerves 9th, 10th and 11th. (This area has been researched with regard to cause of multiple sclerosis recently.)

The most common manifestation of condylar compression is vomiting due to dysfunction of the Vagus Nerve. Treatment is to decompress the condylar parts of the occiput and the vomiting stops! Think about the babies who are denied breast feeding or have changed from one formula to another when the real problem was condylar compression of the occiput.

Information is key! Unfortunately health professionals cover very little if anything about this, at university, hence the poor understanding and misdiagnosis.

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