According to the World Health Organization, headache disorders are a worldwide public health problem. It is a major cause of disability and financial costs to society. The National Headache Foundation reports that more than 45 million Americans have chronic regular headaches and almost half of them experience migraines.
Headaches are common during one’s productive years which spans from late teens to 50s. Current recurring headaches can lead to many lost working hours and lessens productivity.
The general public has poor awareness on headache disorders, generally dismissing the symptom as negligible since headaches are usually episodic, transient, and not infectious. Those who suffer from headaches do not usually consult with their physicians and are therefore not aware of certain effective headache treatments such as analgesics, anti-migraine medications, deep breathing for headaches, and lifestyle modifications.
Types Of Headaches
Not all headaches are the same. It is very important to seek medical and professional help to determine the cause of your headache. Not all headaches require medical treatment but it is important to rule out first the serious medical reasons for headaches such as brain tumors, vascular diseases, glaucoma, and other neurological conditions.
There are different types of headaches, and most do not even require treatment with medication. It is first important to make sure that what you are suffering from is a type of headache that can be relieved with non-medical treatment such as rest, avoidance of certain foodstuffs in your diet, and deep breathing exercises for headaches.
Types of headaches that may be treated with lifestyle modification and deep breathing for headaches include migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.
The Benefits Of Deep Breathing For Headaches
There are a lot of relaxation techniques combined with deep breathing for headaches that you can practice. These will help you combat stress and improve your body’s neurological response to pain during acute headaches and migraine.
Deep breathing, when done properly, improves the body’s circulation and stimulates nerves to respond well, especially during times of tress and anxiety. Breathing cools the blood and ensures optimum oxygen delivery to the brain and the body’s other vital structures.
Focused breathing is key to eliciting a relaxation response. This response is a physical state of rest that prepares the body for the physical and emotional response to stress. During this state, your metabolism decreases, your heart rate and breathing rate slow down, your blood pressure decreases, and your muscles relax.
The relaxation response is not about lying down and sleeping; it’s a mentally active process so that your body can become relaxed, calm, and alert.
Deep Breathing Exercises For Headaches
Before doing these deep breathing exercises for headaches, find a quiet and comfortable place to do these techniques. Your own room may already be a good choice for this. Turn off the television or play soft background music to keep you relaxed.
Some of these deep breathing exercises are relatively simple and you can do them while meditating on the way to work or during breaks in your office while sitting down. Still, one of the best time to do deep breathing for headaches is upon waking up — in order to start your day relaxed and with a positive energy. Do not do these exercises when you are sleepy because you will benefit most from the techniques when you are fully awake and alert. Also, avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine prior to doing these exercises.
There are a lot of different deep breathing exercises that are effective for treating headaches. Here are some simple techniques that you can do to keep you calm and relaxed every day and to improve your well-being.
One simple deep breathing exercise that you can do every day is to do abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes to reduce stress and anxiety. Do this upon waking up or while commuting to work to start your day with a stress-buster.
Music + deep breathing
Combining your favorite calming music and the proper technique of focused deep breathing is also very effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and muscular tension. Do this in a calming environment like a quiet garden or beach, in your own room, or in the private getaway of your choice. Select music that boosts your mood and is soothing to the senses.
Mind relaxation + deep breathing
Mind relaxation by creating a mental escape and combining it with deep breathing for headaches can be an effective calming exercise. Creating a mental escape by visualizing yourself in a relaxing place like a tropical beach can relieve stress and anxiety. Adding positive self-talk to your daily deep breathing exercises can also make you feel better. Making positive affirmations to yourself can eliminate negative thoughts and emotions.
Counting + deep breathing
When a headache strikes, take a deep breath and try to slow down your breathing by taking long and unhurried breaths. Count slowly from one to five as you inhale and then count slowly to five as you exhale. Let your body naturally relax as you exhale.
Focus on a spot below your navel
Another technique to combat headaches requires you to focus on a spot below your navel. Imagine breathing air into that spot, let the air fill your abdomen and lungs, and then let it all out very slowly with a long exhale.
Visualization + deep breathing
Another effective technique recommended by the American Institute of Stress (AIS) uses the power of visualization and deep breathing to stop an acute stress response such as a tension headache or migraine. This exercise will take only 6 quick seconds.
The first step is to smile genuinely: Imagine yourself smiling inside and outside to release tension in your upper body.
Then, try to imagine that there are holes in the soles on your feet and visualize hot air moving through the holes and traveling slowly from your legs, abdomen, and up to your lungs.
Upon exhalation, imagine the air going down, this time slowly from your lungs and coming out of the holes in your feet. Repeat the whole exercise until you feel relaxed.
Sudarshan Kriya for headaches
Another AIS-certified technique which incorporates effective deep breathing to unify the body, mind and soul is the Sudarshan Kriya or SKY method. The method is composed of a unique breathing technique that eliminates stress, headaches, and negative energy such as anger, depression, and frustration. If you are interested in learning this method, there are AIS-certified organizations that offer courses on SKY to help you learn deep breathing for headaches.
The teddy bear technique
For young children, the AIS recommends the teddy bear technique. Children can be taught to do this deep breathing for headaches under the supervision of an adult.
Let your little lie on his or her back and place his or her favorite teddy bear on the belly button, and then close his or her eyes and relax. Let the child breathe through the nose, such that the teddy bear should rise slowly and not the chest. Take a deep breath, it for 3 seconds, and then exhale slowly. Repeat the sequence until the child feels relaxed.
Yoga deep breathing for headaches
Yoga deep breathing techniques can also be helpful for promoting relaxation and good health. These techniques are based on ancient practices that relieve stress with different postures and deep breathing.
Kapalabhati breathing technique
Kapalabhati breathing technique, also known as the “shining skull,” balances the cerebrospinal fluid and therefore arouses brain function and improves one’s neurologic response to pain. To practice this technique, assume a lotus position, with your back straight. Breathe in slowly, count to four, and exhale. Inhale slowly and focus on your stomach as it fills with air, expanding like a balloon. Clench your abdominal muscles on exhalation and force out the air. Repeat as many as 20 times until you feel relaxed. This yoga technique takes practice but is worth perfecting.
The Sheetkari Pranayama or the Hissing Breath
The Sheetkari Pranayama or the Hissing Breath is a popular technique named after the sound of hissing when breathing in through the teeth. This technique cools the blood with every breath and improves circulation. To start, gently lower your upper jaw to meet your lower jaw with your teeth touching. Keep your mouth open without separating your jaws. Breathe in slowly through your mouth and allow the air to rush in between your teeth and straight to your lungs. Gently close your mouth and exhale through the nostrils. Repeat as many times until you feel comfortable.
The Anuloma Viloma
The Anuloma Viloma is an effective healing yoga technique that involves breathing in through the right nostril and breathing out through the left nostril, and then reversing the sequence.
Switching sides is important since breathing through the right nostril has a warming effect while breathing through the left nostril has a cooler effect on the nerves and the whole body. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril while breathing in to the count of four through the left. Close both nostrils and hold your breath for 16 counts. Release just the right nostril and keep the left closed and exhale to the count of eight. Repeat the sequence several times and this time close the left nostril and breathe in.
Focused deep breathing for headaches is effective in driving away those headaches caused by stress. Learn these simple techniques and improve your body’s response to stress. These simple deep breathing exercises are good for your body, mind, and soul.