Tai Chi and Headaches

A story about learning and using tai chi.

For the past four days, I have gone through the normal motions of being a human while enduring a light headache. The pain is not sharp enough to require a painkiller, but there are times when it increases making my concentration crumble. I believe the headaches were caused through a combination of physical injury and stress.

The headaches started about a day after my head collided with a hard surface. It was a pretty strong impact too because I felt dizzy for a few minutes. However, once my sense of balance was straight again I forgot about the incident. In hindsight, considering the headaches start on the side of the head that was hit, I probably should have spent some more time making sure my head was truly alright before moving.

The head impact was probably the tipping point since I have been experiencing a lot of stress from trying to juggle the workload of school, work, and wedding planning. My shoulder muscles have become my warning bell that I need to take a break and go enjoy a massage. With the wedding just around the corner, my stress has sky-rocketed and my shoulders are constantly tense. Nightly massages only give me relief for half an hour at most.

Today, the headache increased tenfold right after lunch. I closed my eyes for a moment and pitched forward, almost knocking my head on the desk. I was so tired and just wanted to go home. Unfortunately, I needed to save my time off hours, thus I went to an empty meeting room and took a small nap. Upon waking up, I felt good – until I stood up and the headache returned. Frustrated, I tried to think of anything that could give me some relief.

  • Essential oils – forgot at home
  • Salon pads – also at home
  • Massage stick – what am I thinking?! I don’t bring that to work!
  • Take some time off and just go home – as pleasant as that is, I have work that really needs to get done
  • Yoga – haven’t done that in years and its going to make other muscles sore

At the thought of yoga, I remembered the tai chi that I have been learning for the past year. I started taking these classes because I needed a gentler martial art. Aikido was fun, but my mother was tired of seeing me come home with a new bruise or icing an over-strained joint.

Hearing about some of the health benefits of tai chi, I debated whether about whether or not I knew enough to feel the effects (placebo or real). I have learned a little more than half of the Guan Ping Yang style form, but I was desperate. I decided to slowly go through the forms I knew.

Starting out, I struggled to maintain a slow, even pace. My headache made it difficult to remember what form was next. Breathe in … breathe out … Slowly, I started to focus on breathing and let muscle memory move my body. By the time I reached the last form, I had calmed down and my headache was nearly gone. As I am writing this, my headache is currently an uncomfortable buzz in the background.

I am unsure if tai chi really did help my headache or if it is a really good placebo. Regardless, this experience has motivated me into being more diligent in practicing tai chi. I hope the frequent sessions will help me get through this stressful time.


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