What’s Causing My Headache?: Part 4 – Posture A Headache Cure

At Day Wellness we come across numerous cases where people are looking for a headache cure.  We often find bad posture and headaches go hand in hand, eventually leading to migraines. Let us take a holistic approach to get to the cause of your headaches and get you relief.

Modern Day Posture

A lot has gone into you being able to stand upright as a human.  From the day you were born, your nervous system began signaling messages through your joints and muscles, stimulating movements that would eventually lead to standing and walking upright.

Sadly, most of modern day is spent doing something that looks nothing like upright posture. We spend a good portion of our day with our spine in some version of a slouch. Your muscles have memory and communicate constantly with your brain and spinal cord.  It’s similar to a fuse box in its function.  In the picture below, on the infant spine and muscles in green: strong and mobile.  The spine is both able to be stable and malleable in the joints and muscles.  In the adult, we see the spine put in a stressful flexion position, which leads to muscle and joint locking. If these areas did not tighten and compensate, the spinal cord would be put under too much stress.


Your body is like a circuit breaker.

There are nerve sensors that can turn on or off depending on how they are signaled by the brain and spinal cord. If too many messages are sent through the circuit, the fuse will blow, and the muscle will become tightened and taut. Joints that normally glide, to aid in movement become stiffened and locked and the circuitry shifts from its normal nerve pattern.  Below you see a sketch where I’m trying to communicate the circuitry of your Joints and Muscles and how they are like circuit breakers to your body. The “On and Off” switch is decided by injuries, posture, and stress.


When we are babies, the point of crawling, rolling, tummy time and deep squatting is to prep our core muscles, the muscles of our neck, and the muscles around our shoulder blades to work properly.  When these muscles work, they provide stability and adaptability to walk, run, squat lift, push, press etc.

Stabilizer Muscles Being Programed

This quick sketch shows the body working in synergy.  All the stabilizers and muscles are getting “programmed” in, so that the body is ready to engage arms and legs to prep for walking.



When these muscles do not work, other muscles have to “kick in” to pick up the slack.  Those suffering from headaches may be substituting shoulder stability with the Levator Scapula muscle posterior neck muscles.  The Levator’s designated job is to be used from time to time, Professor Vladimir Janda coined it a Phasic muscle.  It engages in phases when needed but is not meant to be engaged constantly. Some of its main jobs are to turn the head and/or lift the shoulder.

As you can see in the sketch above if the shoulder begins to round inward (right diagram) which is common when our faulty adult posture develops weakness in the scapula muscles. As a compensation, the levator scapulae is one of several muscles that will begin to compensate for this improper position.  The nerve sensors become overloaded with the job required and muscle can develop knots medically known as trigger points.  Trigger points develop when muscle are strained and used more than their capability.  The normal example (left diagram) is a result of strong spinal and scapular stabilizers, spinal joint balance and flexibility in the front of the chest and shoulder.

Muscles that most commonly become weak with poor posture:

  1. Middle and Lower Trapezius:  Designed to stabilize the spine and shoulder blade while helping you stand tall.  These muscles 0ften “turn off” with prolonged poor posture.
  2. Serratus Anterior: Causes an appearance of winging to the shoulder blade.  Making every arm motion unstable causing the neck muscles to begin compensating.
  3. Rotator Cuff Muscles: If the shoulder drifts inward the muscles that form a “cuff” or support structure on the back of your shoulder can become weak.

These muscles going weak are largely from disuse but can also be caused from a past or current injury.  Our infant nervous system worked so hard with tummy time, and crawling to get these muscles to be strong and active. The best headache cure is to reengage these muscles the correct way, a visit to your local chiropractor can help, and your bodies posture will fall into place.

Do you have muscles and joint alignment issues causing your headache or other neck or shoulder pain?  Are you ready for a headache cure?

At Day Wellness in Long Beach our functional chiropractors can check the balance between your joints, muscles and nervous system.

An Exam includes:

  • An analysis your joint motion and alignment.
  • Mapping out hypertonic muscles.
  • Checking loss of good muscle sequencing.
  • Fascia and connective tissue analysis.

 Want to check yourself? Here are a few tricks to see if you have a postural imbalance

  1. Wall test: Stand with your back against the wall.  Lift your arms up overhead to see if you can touch the wall.  If the mid-back drifts outward away from the wall, or you hike your shoulders up to perform the movement, you have an imbalance in your postural muscles of your upper spine and shoulder and also some joint mobility issues of the shoulder or thoracic spine.
  2. Push up test:  Try a push up and have someone put their hands on your shoulder blades.  Does one or both shoulder blades protrude up as you go down.  This is a sign of poor shoulder stability and nerve co-ordination to the muscles.
  3. Arm raise test: Raise your arm out from your side in an arc reaching overhead until you arm approaches your ear.  Does one side feel smoother than the other.  Do you not make it all the way up without turning your hand to accommodate the movement?  Do you hike your shoulder and neck muscles to perform the movement?

Are any of these tests showing positive symptoms? These can relate to postural or headache problems you may be having. Here at Day Wellness we have developed a game plan specifically for headache cures related to bad posture. Our process involves myofascial therapy, rehabilitation, chiropractic, and posture re-education.

We have a special offer for this detailed exam.  We look forward to finding the cause of your problem, and not treating the symptoms.

Read the full series: What is Causing My Headache:

Part 1. Spinal Joint Alignment
Part 2. Muscle Referral Patterns
Part 3. A Functional Medicine Approach
Part 4. Posture A Headache Cure
Part 5. TMJ Headache Relief
Part 6. Food Sensitivities – Coming Soon


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