Why do I sometimes get headaches after yoga?

15 August 2016,   By ,   0 Comments

As you can imagine, we get a lot of questions about yoga. One of the great things about Elemental is that we are a team of highly educated health professionals and yoga teachers, so we can really hone in on your health and wellbeing issues. One question we hear occasionally is, “Why do I sometimes get a headache after yoga?” I thought I would share my answers to the whole community.

There can be a few reasons for getting a headache after yoga. As we practise hot yoga, the most common reason for us is dehydration or magnesium (or other electrolyte) deficiency. Of course this can be easily rectified by making sure we’re drinking enough water (2 litres per day) even on days when we’re not practicing yoga. To replace the electrolytes we sweat out you can use coconut water, ‘Restore’ or some other high quality electrolyte replacement (I don’t recommend the chemically laden Gatorade/Powerade type drink) and eating quality vegetables and fruit – organic will have a higher mineral content. Bananas are a great source of potassium. We also use Himalayan Salt with each meal to assist with replacement of 84 minerals. If you’re practising a lot of hot yoga, we recommend a high potency magnesium such as ‘Bioceuticals Ultra Muscle-eze Night’ which not only replaces magnesium but also contains choline bitartrate which assists rehydration of the central nervous system. Ask one of our health team if they think that product might be right for you. We have plenty in stock and it is classed as a ‘Practitioner Only’ item – so be sure to ask about it first.

But this is not the most common reason behind post-yoga headaches and the real reason just might surprise you. The most common reason is actually due to the structure of your neck. If we took an x-ray of your neck from the side, we need to make sure you have a curve that goes forward, like an arc. This is the structure that is the most stable and needs the least amount of muscle support or protection.

Normal Neck Curve

Normal Neck Curve

No neck curve

No neck curve

If the curve is missing (which is very common) the neck becomes tight and you have a stretch on your spinal cord and brainstem (Not good – remember, this is your lifeline for your entire body and it is responsible for carrying all of the messages to control and regulate every function in your body. So you don’t want any undue tension on your spinal cord!!!) When we do yoga, we are using the muscles differently and they can become easily aggravated and the headache can be either what we call ‘cervicogenic’ which is primarily due to muscle tension OR due to the stretch on the spinal cord itself in different positions. Either way, the cause is most likely a lack of neck curve.

If you then add in some advanced postures such as headstands, then you can make the problem even worse.

All is not lost however. This curve can be restored if caught early enough (i.e. before the spine degenerates or becomes arthritic) At Elemental, our chiro team have an amazing track record of cervical curve restoration. We use a combination of adjustments, specifically tailored exercises and stretches, regular re-measurements and modification (if needed) of your yoga practice. Now, some people are just not too sure about chiropractic and we understand so we have a couple of options available. You can come in for a free, no-obligation chat with our doctors to find out if your may have a case that chiropractic can help or you can come along to one of our free half-hour evening workshops – just ask one of our team members for the details of the next one. Most of our team is under regular chiropractic care, so we’ll be able to answer most of your questions. But the greatest thing about getting onto this issue early is that if it can be sorted, it can prevent pain, degeneration and arthritis in the spine as you get older. That way you’re unlikely to need future neck surgery or to be on long-term pain/anti-inflammatory medication. A far rosier outcome than just hoping that nothing will go wrong!

Of course, headaches can also be a sign of something more rare and sinister so if you’re getting them regularly, they don’t respond well to pain medication or you’re noticing a change in their type/frequency/severity don’t hesitate to contact your health professional for an assessment.

If you want to find out if you have a normal neck curve, or if you suspect you don’t, just call the Chiro Team today for a chat on 0499 00 33 88.

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