Approximately two thirds of the general population are affected by headaches. For some people suffering frequent or chronic headaches, their entire life-style is altered.
There are a number of different types of headaches with many different causes. This can make diagnosis difficult, especially as many people suffer from headaches of two or more types.
The most common types of headaches are those associated with viral illness, vascular headaches (migraines & cluster headaches), cervicogenic headaches (relating to the neck) & tension headaches.
Headaches brought on by exercise are also common. In particular, ‘exertional’ activities such as weight lifting or doing push-ups may be a trigger of acute headaches in some people which only last a short time, and endurance sports such as long distance running may trigger ‘Effort’ Headaches which can last hours or days. Headaches may also be associated with poor postures and techniques in any sport from dancing to cycling to rugby.
Treatment of headaches may involve drug treatment, removing/avoiding precipitating factors, reducing stress & a referral to a physiotherapist.
Physiotherapists can help in the treatment of headaches, particularly those related to disorders in the neck joints, ligaments or other soft tissue structures such as muscle. These headaches are called Cervicogenic headaches or sometimes called Tension headaches, & the main symptoms & signs include:
- Pain at the front of the head, behind the eyes or at the base of the skull
- Pain on one side or both, but pain that does not usually shift sides
- An ache or a dull boring pain, rather than a throbbing or excruciating pain
- Headache lasting anywhere from a few hours to several days
- Usually neck tenderness & reduced range of neck movement or stiffness
- In some cases, associated nausea, blurred vision with possible eye symptoms & dizziness or light headedness
- Pain starting in the neck or pain that comes on after a sustained awkward head position or movement
* In 50% of cases, there’s a definite history of neck trauma (such as a whiplash injury), but the headache may be delayed up to years after the initial injury.
Not only can Physiotherapists help to treat Cervicogenic headaches & Tension headaches, they can also assist with the other types of headaches that may be related to neck dysfunction. For example, many patients who suffer from migraines report that neck pain/stiffness is often a trigger, & others find that their migraines lead to residual neck symptoms, including muscle spasm & tenderness, as well as joint dysfunction.
Physiotherapy treatment may include mobilization of the symptomatic joints, massage therapy for the muscles & fascia, specific stretching & strengthening exercises & mobilization of neural tissue. Poor posture leading to a forward head position or ‘poked chin’ can also contribute to the development of headaches, & so physiotherapy treatment will also involve correction of movement & posture.
Often ergonomic factors such as the work station can contribute to headaches as can pillows, beds & heavy school or work bags. Poor eyesight can change posture significantly to contribute to the development of a neck headache.
The Physiotherapist will help determine what factors may need to be addressed to help in long term maintenance as well as short term relief. Make a time today.