Almost everyone (well 96% of the population according to researchers), will suffer a headache at some point in their life. Unfortunately for many people, they are a recurrent problem that has a significant impact on their life. So, is physiotherapy the solution?
Before we can answer that question, we need to acknowledge that not all headaches are the same. In the medical world, we actually separate headaches into the following categories:
This sort of headache originates from your neck. Essentially stiffening of the upper 3 joints in your neck causes nerve irritation that leads to head pain. A cervicogenic headache always comes with associated neck pain/stiffness.
Tension type headache:
Very similar to the cervicogenic headache, tension headaches also tend to originate from the neck (or upper back). Poor sitting posture, or emotional stress, causes tightening of the neck/upper back muscles which then refer pain up into the head.
Temporomandibular (jaw) joint problems can also cause head pain. Typically, the muscles that close the mouth become over active & this excessive muscle tension causes a headache. Those people who grind their teeth often end up with temporomandibular headaches.
Migraines are probably the most well known of the headache types, although they actually only represent 10% of all headaches. In addition to head pain, a migraine sufferer also experiences nausea/vomiting as well as extreme sensitivity to light & sound. Their cause is still not well understood, although emotional stress & diet have both been implicated.
These are episodes of repeated (clusters) of short term headaches (less than 3hrs) that appear to be triggered by substances that dilate/expand your blood vessels – alcohol, glyceryl trinitrate (used to treat angina) & excessive histamine (perhaps from an allergic reaction) are the most common triggers.
TREATING YOUR HEADACHE:
Unfortunately, if you are a true migraine or cluster headache sufferer, then medication may be your only effective form of treatment. But if your headache falls into any of the 3 mechanical categories, then physiotherapy treatment can be VERY effective – both to treat & prevent these types of headaches.
A skilled physiotherapist can assess the neck & jaw structures, then design an appropriate plan of treatment to fix any abnormalities. This will usually involve manual techniques to loosen your tight joints and release your tight/spasming muscles (including massage & dry needling). Strategies can then be put in place for these headache sufferers to prevent or self manage their headaches in the future.
Click here to book an appointment with one of the expert physiotherapists at Back In Motion Camberwell if you are a headache sufferer.
Adrian Quinn (Member APA) – Physiotherapist & Director at Back In Motion Camberwell