Hypermobility and headaches – how to alleviate pain without medication

There are a range of common symptoms suffered by those with hypermobility or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. One of these is a predisposition to headaches and migraines. These can be debilitating. Those who suffer know they cause a lot more than just mild discomfort or annoyance.

People living with hypermobility are three times as likely to suffer from migraines and experience twice as many headaches as those who don’t have extreme flexibility. This is a huge figure and stacks another health issue onto those already suffered by many with hypermobility and associated conditions.

Yet whilst the link between headaches and hypermobility is now quite well recognised following the results of a study in 2011, there’s little information out there about how to take proactive steps to relieve the pain they can cause, or indeed reduce their occurrence.

But is there anything we can about it that doesn’t involve yet more painkillers?

In this blog series, I’m focusing on small steps you can take towards a freer, more pain-free lifestyle. In this article, I want to guide you through some ways in which you can use movement to reduce the headaches or migraines that may have become part of your daily life.

Headaches are caused in numerous ways, but scientists believe headaches in the hypermobile are caused by 2 important factors. First cervico-cranial instability (or poor head posture for us non-scientists!). So a forward head posture of just 2 degrees can double the weight of the head. Imagine if the head came forward more than 2 degrees. That’s a lot of weight to carry and a lot of strain on key neck and shoulder muscles to tolerate every day. They then become inflamed and irritated – leading the tension and headaches. Second, the position of the mandibular joint or lower jaw – the one we use for chewing. In hypermobility, this joint can malfunction which changes the joint position. This misalignment causes muscle spasms and headaches. It can also make eating very painful and difficult to open the jaw fully.

In order to counteract some of these issues and alleviate the frequency or severity of your headaches, here are some relaxation techniques you can try. Relaxation is key to try to relax those overworked muscles to give some pain relief:

1. Lying supine – take a soft but supportive pillow or cushion. Place your head in the cushion and try to imagine that someone is cradling your head. With every exhale, allow the weight of your head to release down into the cushion. Feel the support.
2. It’s useful to imagine the head gets heavier with every exhale so that you are no longer trying to hold your head up. These muscles are typically difficult to relax even when we think we are relaxed, so mindfulness and breathing in that area will really help. It’s very relaxing to spend a good 5-10 minutes here.
3. To relax the jaw muscles, try resting the tongue on the roof of your mouth so that the back teeth are very slightly apart. We often clench our jaws to try to control but ideally the back teeth are never touching each other. Try to imagine the lower jaw hanging from the skull.
4. Finally, soften the lips and let them be very slightly apart too. Tension around the jaw including the lips can cause fascial tension that could lead to a headache.

As well as being a useful tool to manage headaches, it’s a wonderful relaxation technique too. Enjoy!

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