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Headaches: How Physical Therapy can help

If you suffer from frequent headaches, you’re not alone. Tension headaches affect around 80-90 percent of people in the United States. They are also the world’s third most frequent pain source, after back and neck pains! Physical treatment can help with all types of headaches, whether they are acute and brief or persistent and chronic (such as migraines).

Physical therapy isn’t normally someone’s first thought when they have a headache – most of the time, the common reaction is to take some form of pain-relieving medication. This may help to relieve pain in the short-term, but if you are constantly suffering from headaches or migraines, pain relief drugs will not provide you with the same long-term effects that physical therapy will. A Physical Therapist can help you figure out what is causing your headaches and provide an effective, safe, and natural treatment plan for eliminating them!

What are the different types of headaches?

Many individuals are unaware that there are numerous types of headaches, each with its own set of causes. The three primary kinds of headaches are:

  • Tension headache: The most common form of headaches are known as tension headaches. These can occur due to repetitive motions or poor posture in the neck/head. Tension headaches are caused by a strain on the “dura mater,” which is a sensitive membrane that envelops the brain and spinal cord. The dura mater lies in close proximity to small muscles at the base of the skull that go into spasm when the dura mater becomes strained, thus sending pain signals to the brain and causing your headache.
  • Musculoskeletal headaches: Musculoskeletal headaches occur when there are significant amounts of tension in the neck. This is typically a result of physical imbalances, weaknesses, or damage, although emotional tension (such as stress) can also be a contributing factor. A traumatic injury to the neck, such as whiplash, is a common cause of musculoskeletal headaches. With common neck injuries such as whiplash, the muscles and connective tissues in the neck can become torn or strained. This can lead to agonizing pain felt in the head, as well as in the face, shoulders, or neck.
  • Cervicogenic headaches: Cervicogenic headaches are also related to neck pain, involving the top three vertebrae of the neck. These headaches can develop as a result of certain conditions, such as a concussion or arthritis, but work-related strain can also trigger a cervicogenic headache. Professions that require a down-turned motion of the head or neck are the most prone for developing cervicogenic headaches. This may include hairdressers, long-haul drivers, chefs, nail artists, jewelers, etc.

Find relief for your headaches through physical therapy:

At your initial appointment, one of our highly trained physical therapists will conduct a physical evaluation and ask you questions about your health history and symptoms, in order to determine what type of headache you are experiencing and where the pain is stemming from. A treatment plan will then be designed specifically for you and your recovery.

Some of the most common treatments to relieve headaches are:

  • Trigger point manual therapy: Trigger points are irritable, tender spots in the muscles that can refer pain into other areas of your body. They commonly develop as a result of repetitive tasks or trauma to the neck. Manual trigger point therapy involves an experienced Physical Therapist applying pressure to trigger points, in order to ease muscle tension.
  • Massage Therapy: Massages are relaxing for most people and help provide pain relief by increasing circulation.
  • Stretching & strengthening exercises: By performing certain stretching and strengthening exercises, you can strengthen the muscles of your neck that may at first feel weak or sore after experiencing a neck injury. This allows your muscles to heal and adapt to your new pain-free position, so you can begin performing tasks with ease again.
  • Postural training & ergonomic education: Proper posture is important for avoiding frequent headaches by keeping the head in an ideal position; this is especially true for those who work on a computer all day or regularly perform certain tasks (i.e., scrubbing, painting, etc.).

Contact our clinic if you’ve been experiencing headaches! Lets work together alleviate your pain!