Dr. Emmett Miller's Simple but Powerful Way to Stop a Headache

In my experience, there are few things quite as unpleasant and demoralizing as having a headache. Some people are positively plagued and hounded by them.

Yet, most of the time the cause for that headache is simple tension and spasm in the muscles of the neck and scalp, and in the muscles circling the blood vessels in the head.

This tension and spasm is often (but not always) the end result of a chain of events initiated or exacerbated by stress.

Stress often triggers tension of the face and head region, and when it happens in a sustained way, it can create new injuries in the muscle. These injuries trigger pain fibers, which in turn set off signals in the spinal cord to tense the muscles (in an attempt to withdraw from the injury).

Of course, this tensing creates more injury, triggering more pain, and so it goes. Ultimately the muscle goes into a spasm and the pain breaks through to the conscious level.

Voila! You have a headache.

So now what’s needed is to communicate to an ancient part of our brain to release the tension in those muscles and relax – that it’s safe and good and okay to relax those muscles.

Once the spasm and tension are gone, the body quickly absorbs the biochemicals in the muscle causing the pain (bradykinins and prostaglandins).

Presto! Pain gone.

Guided imagery and hypnosis are simple, easy, powerful ways to communicate this to those deeper levels of your brain and mind. With frequent use, you can actually establish an internal practice of healing your headaches and, better yet, fending them off before they can gather steam.

But in addition, here’s a favorite technique of mine that can serve you well, too. Consider adding it to your headache toolkit.

Try this: tightly clench your hand into a very tight fist. Feel the tension in your hand, wrist, forearm, upper arm and even shoulder – possibly even your neck - for a few moments. Now relax your hand (and arm) completely. Let it lie limply next to you or in your lap. Feel all the relaxation, loosening and warmth flowing in the whole muscle chain.

Now, go into a deeply relaxed state (either with the help of a relaxation audio, or else on your own, from having worked with guided imagery, meditation or hypnosis a few times). In that relaxed, immersive state, slowly make a tight fist and then slowly release it, while inviting the muscles of your head and neck to join in and do the same. Repeat this a few times.

This simple, speedy protocol can often relieve a simple headache or fend off future ones. Rehearsing this every day can produce welcome changes.

Best wishes,
(Dr) Emmett (Miller)

Note from HJ: We now boast a remarkable selection of guided imagery and hypnosis programs to heal headache pain, including our brand new TMJ audio by Harvard health psychologist and hypnotherapist, Carol Ginandes PhD.