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Health, neck pain

Migraine & Headache Relief | Effective, Proven Self-Treatment

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Headaches and Migraines are not being treated the right way. If you are relying on medication, supplements or “posture correction”, you aren’t going to get any headache relief.

This post outlines what is really behind 80-90% of headaches and gives you the self-treatment that helps or cures 80% of neck-related headaches and migraines!(1)

Headaches have become a normal thing for people to have due to how common they are but don’t need to be. They are often put down as caused by dilated blood vessels, tight muscles at the base of the head, hormones etc. This often means the underlying cause is missed and the problem isn’t resolved long term. Head pain can be debilitating at times and at others just simply niggly and annoying but covering that up with pain medication won’t solve things long term.

Actually, a huge 97% of those affected by headaches and migraines, still don’t know the cause, even after scans and tests etc.

Luckily we may have the headache relief you are after,

What causes Headache and Migraines

The good news is that there has been some great new research done over the last 10 years.

This research has found that the cause behind the majority of headaches and migraines is sensitization to the brainstem. A number of recent studies have determined that the one underlying common factor in tension-type headache and migraine sufferers is a sensitized trigemino-cervical nucleus – the lower part of your brainstem.

What causes this sensitization

Dysfunction in the upper part of your neck, specifically the upper three vertebrae is the first stage. This can be caused by a number of things, including stress, head posture, trauma or injury. This then causes pain signals to be sent to your brainstem over and over again, leading to the brainstem becoming more sensitized.

When the brainstem becomes sensitized, it is essentially hypersensitive and can handle less and less negative input before it becomes irritated, which manifests as pain felt in the head. Once your brainstem is sensitized, it is then easier for different stimuli to cause a headache, such as hormones, sustained posture, stress and poor nutrition (or even coffee and chocolate!).

How can headaches and migraines be cured

The Waston Headache Approach and some good recent studies have recognized a previously unrecognized underlying cause of headaches and migraines. These studies (1,2) show that:

  • 90% of headache and migraine sufferers do have shortened muscles at the top of their neck (base of the skull) which act to create joint stiffness
  • Most important: If a patients head pain can be reproduced through specific palpation on points over the top 3 vertebrae in the neck then the neck in most likely involved.
  • If the head pain can then be eased or resolved with sustained treatment on that area, then that confirms the neck involvement.

Basically treatment that gives great headache relief and helps fix them for good eases the tension in the sub-occipital muscles AND helps desensitize the brainstem. The treatment is sustained pressure on the area that brings on your head pain – this done regularly over 4-6 weeks has awesome results.

The best Self-Treatment for Headache relief

Sustained pressure on the upper cervical vertebrae is the answer to a lot of head pain and the great thing is – you can treat yourself!

Sustained pressure can be applied through a few different ways, but the easiest way to do yourself is to use a headache relief tool a peanut.

These tools are designed to apply sustained pressure on the upper 2-3 vertebrae and muscles overlying them. This improves mobility, releases tight muscle AND helps de-sensitize the brain-stem

Addressing the cause. Not just the symptoms

Lie on your back and place the headache relief tool at the very top of your neck (at the base of your skull). Adjust the position until you get a point where the pressure brings on your head pain.

Hold this position until the pain has eased, which typically takes 1-2 minutes.

You can then rest in that position for longer or move position slightly to find another spot.

Give it a go and immediate relief is often felt!

headache relief

Note: A cheaper option for a self-treatment tool that still gives great relief is a Peanut

Headache Relief that doesn’t break the bank, is effective AND doesn’t need medication – How could you not give it a try?

Enjoy.


Back pain, Mobility, neck pain

Exercises to fix iHunch

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With all great things, there is always an equal and opposite, and with improved technology and greater availability, we now have a new syndrome. The iHunch. Luckily for you, we know the best exercise to straighten your hunch out.

Just like Yin and Yang, most things follow Newton’s third law, where is always and equal and opposite force and now that we have such easy availability of technology, we can easily spend most of our days looking at screens. Whether this is laptops, desktops, tablets, phones or watches, we are forever looking down.

iHunch exercises to fixAnd looking down is the big issue.

Most of our heads are around 6kg but as our shoulders hunch and our head protrudes forward, the load on our neck increases a huge amount as you can see in the picture here

Over time, our body adapts to this posture and our upper back stiffens and loses extension, our pecs tighten and pull the shoulders forward and the muscles in our upper neck cramp up. This then causes pain and can really put you in a bad mood.(1)

 

So here is how you can sort iHunch at home. Stretch out that hunch and maybe even make yourself taller!

1. Thoracic extension stretch

Stretch out you upper back over a Foam Roller or stretch ball. The foam roller can either be across your back or up your spine for a more gentle approach.

Hold the stretch for at least one minute and then move higher, making sure not to put the roller or ball under your low back or neck.

You can also wrap your arms around your chest and roll up and down to massage the muscles

improve your thoracic mobility quick and easy

back stretch thoracic ihunch

2. Pec stretch

Using a doorway, place your forearm against the frame and gently lean forward. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds each side

Pec stretch

3. Wall angels

This is one of the best exercises for improving postural strength as if fires up all of your shoulder and spine extensor muscles

Make sure your bum, upper back and head are touching the wall, as well as your knuckles and elbow to start (a). then slide your arms up and down as far as you can without your elbow or hand coming off the wall. You will feel a good burn between your shoulder blades.

Repeat for 3 sets of 15 reps

YouTube player

wall angels, shoulder pain

 

The only other thing you can do to help prevent iHunch is to stop looking down so much! Hold your phone up in front of you, get a stand-up desk and walk more.

And that’s it. Mobilize the spine, stretch the pecs and strengthen your extensors and you will feel much better for it.


Mobility, neck pain, Shoulder pain

Myofascial Release: Tight neck and shoulder self-treatment!

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Everyone gets tight neck and shoulders, whether you are an athlete, office worker or new-mum and this easy myofascial release will give you huge relief!

How does this Myofascial Release of the neck help?

By using gentle pressure on trigger points or using long flowing stretching strokes helps release myofascial pain. This when applied to tight neck and or shoulders helps relieve the pain and increase mobility.

  • Ease neck and shoulder tension
  • Improve shoulder range
  • Ease headaches
  • Make you more upright
  • The best of all, it will just make you feel great!

Myofascial Release Technique

See the Video demo here or see below for an easy description.

upper traps, self trigger point knots, tension headaches treatmentThe upper trapezius (traps) knot up very regularly and cause you to feel tight, hunched over and can often cause stress and tension headaches. All you need is a firm massage ball and do the following exercise for a great myofascial release:

TP UT1

Lie on your back with your knees bent up and place the ball under your upper traps as shown.  You will be able to feel the knots and tight muscles through this area (they will feel harder, often tender and like a marble or golf ball).

Self trigger point of upper traps and stress pointsNext bring your arm up and back towards the ground and then oscillate it up and down (grind it!).

Tip: If you do not feel it much, lift your bottom off the ground and put all your weight through the ball.

This is a fantastic technique and once you have tried you will see what I mean! For the is best results and long-lasting relief, do this every evening or as a break at work.

This myofascial release is great to combine with a couple of other things that will combine to create a long-term fix! It is important to look at the muscles (which we are doing here) AND the joints, so try out this easy spinal self-mobilization or this back stretch your mobility.

Let me know how you get on!

Please share and like and if you want more self-treatment exercises, check out our great Ebook

Pro-tip: If you get headaches with your neck pain you could well have cervicogenic headaches – check out more info in this post form Headache Proof

Here is a great product on amazon that helps relax neck and shoulder pain.


neck pain, Shoulder pain, Upper limb

Scapula stabilising exercises – Beat shoulder pain for good.

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winging scapula shoulder bladeWhy does your shoulder pain not get better or keep coming back??  Scapula stability and control is often overlooked yet it is absolutely necessary for good shoulder function. Here we will increase shoulder girdle strength, stability and control to get rid of and minimise the chances of:

  • Rotator cuff impingement
  • Shoulder tendinopathy
  • Subacromial Bursitis
  • Neck pain and Headaches
  • And much more

Scapula Dyskinesia is a very very common response to shoulder pain and leads to ongoing, prolonged and frustrating shoulder pain. This is basically abnormal movement of your shoulder-blade. For more detail: Skapula dyskineia

Normal shoulder movement, strength, control and performance is fully dependent on the scapula – and not just movement but it’s stability as well. The scapula is the base that your arm works off and if you don’t have a stable base, you will be much more likely to have shoulder and neck pain – It would be like trying to walk in an earthquake!

Normally when you lift your arm, your shoulder blade rotates upwards as seen in the picture below. If your shoulder-blade doesn’t rotate – your shoulder gets jammed against it, leading to pain and tightness.

So given that Scapula Dyskinesia occurs in 68-100% of shoulder injuries, this is something that needs to be addressed in EVERY PERSON WITH SHOULDER PAIN. So below is your exercise regime to address this yourself at home or the gym.

1. Push-up Plus: skapual, serratus anterior strengthening exercises, physiotherapy, shoulder pain

keeping your body and arms straight, push your shoulders forward(body upwards and then control your shoulders back to the starting position).

Too easy? do a push up and add the press at the top of each push-up (this is the plus!)

2×12 reps (to start with!)and start on your knees if you need to.

 

2. Shoulder external rotation: shoulder ER

Remember to always keep your elbow into your side and at 90degress.

You can also do theses in side lying with a 1-2kg dumbell in your upper hand.

2 x 12reps, increase the stretch to progress.

 

 

3. Chariot Pull: chdariot pull

Keeping your arms straight and shoulder back and down, take your arms back untill they are level with your body.

2 x 12reps, increase the stretch to progress.

 

 

 

 

4. Thoracic Mobility: I have included this as if you have a stiff spine, your shoulder chariot pull, shoulder strengtheningblades are always going to be in a bad position, so it is important to address this so that you don’t get stuck at 95%!

Using either a full or preferably 1.2 foam roller (high density!) lie on it, placed below your shoulder blades as shown, bridge up and extend your arms overhead and then elbows down to your sides.

Tip: Keep your head up and chin tucked in.

spend 1-2minutes working on your spine.

Do these exercises two times daily (Ideally!) for 6 weeks for awesome shoulder stability and a pain-free shoulder.

http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/47/14/877.long

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12670140

Also see:

Mobilise yourself

Beating neck pain and headaches

Please share and let me know how you get on.

 


Mobility, neck pain, training

Thoracic Mobility: Forget back, neck and shoulder pain

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Mobile Monday: Thoracic mobility

The key to many neck and shoulder injuries, your thorax needs to be mobile and in control, otherwise everything working off it… eventually feels the hurt.

Thoracic mobility is one of the most overlooked aspects of injury prevention and although this part of your spine doesn’t have as much movement as above and below it, it is very important none the less and here are a quick few reasons:

1. A stiff or weak upper spine means other areas have to compensate and move MORE, leading to shoulder, neck and low back injuries and pain.

2. Because your ribs attach to the thoracic spine, if the spine is stiff, locked up or just not moving correctly then the ribs are not going to move optimally when you breathe – leading to a lower breathing capacity and less basal lung expansion (the most important area of the lung).

3. If you work at a desk or live on the couch, your thoracic spine ends up hunched over, your pecs get tight and you just feel stuck – this makes your shoulders sit forward,  increasing the risk of sub-acromial pain and makes your head stick forward = causing headaches and neck pain.

 

So, to get you to 100% here is an exercise to improve thoracic mobility and improve every aspect of your movement – and it just takes 5 minutes!

Thoracic extensions: Mobilising into extension is my a definite go to exercise for all shoulder and spinal/back pain as this unloads all those areas. Extension in the thoracic spine is coupled with rotation, so if you gain extension, you also gain rotation!

Tools needed: There are specific tools that you can use such as Foam Roller and 1/2 foam rolls (my favorite), but if this is too much for the budget then you can roll up a towel very, very firmly and tape it up.

chariot pull, shoulder strengtheningPosition: Lying on your back place the roll under your upper back, starting above the curve of your low back. With your knees bent up and feet planted on the ground bring your arms all the ways up above your head so that you stretch your upper body right out and then bring then down to your side (like a big snow angel).

Bridging your bottom off the ground can add to the stretch!

Reps and sets: You will need to move the roll up your back to get the different levels. Spend 30 seconds on each level, extending your arms above your head towards the ground and then down to your side repeated.

 

Do this exercise daily and you will see a great improvement in not only thoracic mobility but in all aspects of your life including, from overhead gym work and your golf swing to looking over your shoulder when driving.


Health, neck pain, physical therapy, physiotherapy

5 great exercises for neck pain.

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In this post I want to give you the tools to lay the foundations of a functional and stable, pain free neck. As with all spinal rehabilitation and retraining, there are important aspects that have to be addressed in order to achieve the end result of decreased neck pain and increased movement.

Make sure to check out my post on beating headaches arising from a tight and sore neck.

The first is kinesthetic training. This, in a nutshell, is gaining a better awareness of safe spinal movement and the neutral spine position. This is an important initial building block for the neck because, as mentioned earlier, when in pain we tend to lose proper feeling in the neck and in turn lose control of the stabilising muscles. This leads to unknowingly holding your head in a bad position (and so more neck pain!).

So first we need to discuss the neutral spinal position for the head and neck.

 

As you can see in the picture above, the image on the left is in neutral spinal position, still maintaining gentle curves. Now the image on the right has a typical poor posture of the upper back and neck, with their head jutting forward and their back rounded out. Just remember a good spinal position is not having your spine as straight as a pole or forcing yourself bolt upright!

1.1. Double chin

The first technique we will do is head retractions (I find calling it Double chins makes it far easier to remember). A great way to visualize this exercise is thinking about giving yourself an extra chin, as it has this effect when performed. To do this it is important to keep looking forward while bringing your head backward, making sure not to tilt your head down (it may help to put a finger on your chin to guide your head back).

Hold this position for 5 seconds 5 times. This can be done little and often throughout the day

Now this is an extreme of the position and we do not need to have a head this far back all the time! Rest assured.

 

1.2 Keeping moving

The second easy exercise to start doing is turning nods. This exercise is to start functionally working the core muscles of your neck and help them start feeling normal again. This is a fantastic exercise for neck pain and while at times it may feel like it isn’t doing much, believe me it works wonders on sore necks and headaches, allowing improved neck function and more feeling into the neck.

The added bonus is that it makes you keep the neck moving because as I’m sure you know when in pain we tend to stiffen up and this is not what we want at all.

Turning nods: This involves turning your head to each side and performing 3 nods on each side. These nods need to be small so that you are just moving your head on your neck. An important thing to remember with these exercises is do not push into pain! Also for some people this can feel like an awkward movement to do  or you may struggle to do the small nods – persevere and they will get better, this just shows that the muscles really are weak and lack control. This awesome exercise takes no time at all and can be done little and often throughout the day.

The second aspect is muscle re-training, you can move on to this as early as you like, progressing on as it gets easier.

The specific muscles that we want to retrain are the Deep Neck Flexors.

2. Chin tuck

The best and most used exercise is the chin tuck, which provides the basis for neck stabilization  This exercise can be done in numerous positions, including lying on your back, tummy, in four point kneeling and standing. BUT there are progressions to this exercise and you want to make sure you have each stage down before you move on.

Initial position for learning the chin tuck: lying on your back, knees bent with a towel rolled up under your head as shown so that the thickest part is under the base of your head.

Action: Tuck your chin in causing a fattening of the neck and a downward pressure to be applied to the rolled towel at the base of your neck.

How much? Begin with 10×3 second holds and progress to 10×10 seconds – 2 sets of these twice daily.

 Image

Tips

    1. place your tongue on the top of your mouth and keep your teeth apart. This will help relax the jaw and only utilise the muscles we want, deep in your neck.
    2. Do not force this exercise, it needs to be gentle
    3. Quality over quantity – keep it nice and slow and control it!

 Chin Tuck progression:

Once you have mastered the chin tuck in lying and you can do it easily in a smooth motion without tensing your jaw, then you are ready to move on and do this exercise in the other positions. I recommend progressing to four point kneeling first as this will give you great feedback having to work against gravity. You can also do the exercise in front lying and standing.

The third aspect is unloading the neck by stretching tight muscles:

3. Arm pit stretch: This is a great stretch to unload your neck and shoulder. I call it this as you are pulling your head towards your armpit!

Hold this for at 1 minute and perform 3 times daily. To get a better stretch it may help to hold on to a bench or table with the opposite hand to stop the shoulder rising up.

neck stretch for levator scapulae

4. Ear to shoulder: Keep your head looking forward and this time pull your head towards your shoulder and hold for 1 minute also 3x daily.

 neck stretch for upper trap

Exercise re-cap:

– Double chins

– Turning nods

– Chin tucks

– Arm-pit stretch

– Ear to shoulder stretch

These exercises absolutely don’t take long and can be done LITTLE AND OFTEN throughout the day.

Be sure to keep and eye out for an upcoming post on postural correction for some great self mobilization and correction techniques you can do at home and also my recent post on Self Trigger Pointing.


Health, neck pain

Headaches and Neck Pain – Self trigger pointing to abolish Knots

• By

In this post I will tell you how to get relief and get rid of headaches and annoying knot sin your neck yourself! A fantastic tool that everyone needs to know – Don’t rely on drugs, medication and heat packs – treat yourself!

First of all, I would like to say that I really believe that there is such a thing as good pain! Some of my patients may disagree with this at the time of treatment of course but if not immediately, then the day after, you will feel markedly better. A lot of this “Good pain”  is felt during trigger point release and deep massage, when the tissue is released, it feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulder at times and relieves a lot of pain – namely Headaches and niggly Neck Pain!

Another way to look at this is a little bit of pain for a whole lot of gain!

I am going to run through a couple of techniques that you can utilise YOURSELF along with strengthening exercises to beat headaches and neck pain. These can be performed yourself or you can get someone else to do them for you:

Self-massage:

Starting position – I find that prone lying (on your back) is best as this way it is easier to relax and you aren’t using all the muscles to hold you up. You can also give it a go in sitting or another position you find comfortable.

Motion – using the hand on the same side as you want to massage, bring you hand back and place your three middle fingers on the back of your neck right below your skull. This gives you a good idea of the area you need to be massaging. Now simply using these fingers or just the index and middle gently begin massaging into the muscle using circulatory motions and remembering to keep good contact on the skin. The idea with this is to find the muscle that feels harder, tighter or knotty and work into this to warm it up, stretch it out and increase blood flow.

 If someone else is performing the massage on youlielye on your back with your head supported on a pillow, have this awesome person sit behind your head and place their hands under the upper portion of your neck on each side.

 Trigger point release: I have listed this technique second as it is best to do after light massage when the muscle is warmed up.

In the same position as described above, use your index and middle finger to find the trigger points in your sub-occipital muscles. You will find these at the back of your neck in the at the base of your skull. A trigger point as described in Beating Headaches is basically a point in a tight muscle which is especially hard and sore to touch and often refers pain up into your head.

 When one of these points is found you need to apply pressure to the point with your index finger supported by your middle finger. Apply pressure so that there is mild pain (it needs to be bearable – if you are too aggressive the muscle will bunch up more). Maintain this pressure until the pain begins to subside and at this point you need to more pressure, without taking your fingers off. This increase in pressure should be performed 2-3 times and then the pressure can be taken off. It can take ten seconds to over a minute for the pain to start easing and the muscle to relax so you need to hang in there!

Tip – give the muscle a gentle rub after this to make it feel more normal.

Next – move on to another trigger point if there are any more on the same or other side.

 Image

Note: Trigger point release can at times cause aching and an increase in pain/ headaches but improvements will show the day after.

For further information see: Beating Headaches and HeadacheProofMe


Health, neck pain, physical therapy, physiotherapy

How to get rid of Headaches – All you need to know and do

• By

By whatever name you want to call them, tension, stress or cervicogenic Headaches are a huge problem in today’s high demand, high stress world. Here you will find out what your headaches are caused by and most importantly how YOU can improve and get rid of headaches drug-free!

Many have headaches as a common occurrence, simply cannot get rid and have learnt to live with them and for the majority of headaches sufferers, this simply should not and does not need to be the case. This is because a common cause of headaches is the sub-occipital muscles of the cervical spine which in simpler terms are the muscles right at the base of the skull.

Image

And here’s the kicker – THIS CAN BE TREATED.

These headaches are called Cervicogenic headaches, also commonly known as tension headaches. The pain is experienced in the forehead, temples, around the eyes and often gets worse with prolonged postures, stress and neck pain.

Image

Starting to sound familiar? If so read on!

How do these muscles cause headaches?

The pain is essentially caused by trigger points in the muscle referring pain to different points on the head. These  are caused by a number of things, including the following, and often not by one factor in isolation.

The main causes of the trigger points are:

  1. Poor posture: poor posture causes a lot of stress on the posterior structures of the upper neck. Poor posture causes a forward head posture, which closes down of the joints of the upper spine, in turn putting stress on the supporting muscle to hold the head up while out of alignment. This stress causes the sub-occipital muscles to tighten up in order to protect the joints, which if maintained this can cause trigger points and chronic pain.
  2. Stress: when under stress, from any source then you tend to tense up your shoulders, raise your shoulder blades and tense up at the back of your neck causing a forward head posture and over activation of you global muscles. Along with this, the chemical make up in your body changes.
  3. Sports: sports that need a lot of hyper-extension such as diving and climbing and also sports that can injure and put pressure on the neck as these actions close down the joints at the back of your neck and cause muscle guarding and increased tension. Contact sports such as football and rugby also cause jarring and injury which can lead to headaches.
  4. Spinal injury – such as whiplash.
  5. Degenerative spinal disease and arthritis. These diseases cause breakdown of joint surfaces and extra bone growth causing a lot of pain and irritation. Because of this the surrounding muscles tense up to try and protect the joints, this leads to knots in the surrounding muscles which no longer function properly and can cause pain themselves.

Once trigger points are formed and you have the headaches that go untreated then often they stick around due to decreasing muscle function, with a number of factors having effect:

Image

  1. When the sub-occipital muscles tighten and form trigger points, if left untreated, these form a cycle of decreasing muscle function. The trigger points and tight muscles decrease the blood getting into these muscles leading to tighter muscles and more pain.
  2. The second major problem which adds to this cycle is loss of feeling in the neck. When in pain, the proprioceptors in the neck are inhibited, these receptors relay information  to your brain, telling you where your body is in space. Due to pain and tightness, the receptors can no longer effectively sense if your head is in the correct position and this leads to worse neck posture and also decreased movement due to trying to protect the area.
  3. The third point that adds to this cycle just like in low back pain is loss of activation of the deep stabilising muscles. The deep neck flexors are the core of your neck and in pain disorders these stabilising muscles show decreased muscle control and endurance. This leads to less stabilisation which in turn causes large global muscles such as your upper traps and levator scapulae to take of and be a nuisance.

So how do you know if you are getting cervical headaches and not migraines? Here is a quick reference table in oreder to help differentiate between tension headaches and migraines.

Cervicogenic headache

Migraine

Effectiveness of pain killers

Decreasing

Limited response

Description

Dull, aching

Described as an attack

Intensity

Variable

Severe

Effect of migraine drugs

No relief

Relief

Family history

No connection

Family history related

Neck pain

Some neck tenderness or stiffness

none

Quick test: The most significant test I use in practice everyday (if the above matches) is palpation of the offending muscles.

You can do this by feeling the sub-occipital muscles with your index finger, with the middle finger on top of it for support.  Push into the muscles gently and massage(with reasonable force) around the muscles at the base of your skull. When you come across a part of the muscles which feels harder, lumpier of slightly painful, stay there and increase the pressure – if the pain from this refers into the head similar to the headaches you get, then this is most likely a major cause or contributor of your headaches and CAN BE TREATED.

How are cervical headaches treated?

These headaches can be treated very effectively by a Physiotherapist, the aim of treatment is to:

  1. Relax the muscles, mobilize the joints.
  2. Increase muscle stabilization.
  3. Treat the causative factor if possible, such as poor posture or stress.

But as always I want you to help your self and be as independent as a possible! In subsequent posts I will let you in on how to get rid of  headaches at home:

See my posts on these techniques and if you really stick to the above three points and give them a good try, then you will achieve awesome results. Why live with the pain and discomfort if you can do something about it as easy as this. Even spending 10-20 minutes each day doing these self treatments will help! Try it for 6 weeks and you will be sleeping well again. You can more in depth knowledge from the experts and access to a full rehab plan at Headache Proof Me.

Let me know how you get on!


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