How Physiotherapy Can Help With Headaches
Headaches can be a debilitating and reoccurring issue for people that suffer from them. They can become very disruptive and prevent the sufferer from completing their day-to-day activities, work commitments and even doing the things that they love. If you are suffering from headaches on a regular basis, it is important that you get the right treatment from the appropriate healthcare professionals. These include your GP, pharmacist, and physiotherapist. Physiotherapy can help with headaches and is a treatment that is worth considering.
The role that a physiotherapist can play in treating headaches is sometimes overlooked yet they can have a significant impact and can often provide effective treatments for headache sufferers. In this article, we explore headaches, the different types and how physiotherapy can help with headaches.
Headaches Are Complex
Headaches are a complex form of pain. They can have several causes and are often difficult to diagnose and treat as a result. When people present themselves to a healthcare professional with headache it is often unexplained. Many headaches are at least partially caused by the neck and its internal structures, which means that they can respond well to physiotherapy led headache treatment. Headaches have been successfully treated with manual therapy for many years and benefit from the many skills held by a physiotherapist.
Types Of Headaches
According to the CSP, there are three categories of headaches: primary, secondary, and painful neuropathies and facial pain. The vast majority of headaches are primary headaches, with migraines being the most common and disabling type in the primary category. The impact of migraines is profound with it being only second to back pain in terms of years lost to disability.
Meanwhile, secondary headaches are significantly less common and are mostly caused by another disorder. Cervicogenic Headache (CGH) and Medication Overuse Headaches (MOH) are both examples of secondary headaches. The third category of headaches is called painful cranial neuropathies and facial pain. This is the least common category and is not often seen by physiotherapists.
Headaches Starting In Your Neck
Many headaches start with pain or a form of tension at the top of the neck. As the pain gets worse, it tends to progress to the back of the head, the temples, the forehead or behind the eyes. If you have a headache and suddenly move your neck or bend forward for a long period of time, the pain can become more severe. The reason why this happens is because the nerves in the top of your neck are connected to the nerves in your head and face.
In order to definitively confirm that your headache is being caused by or contributed to by your neck, it is recommended that you book a headache assessment with a physiotherapist. However, you may be able to gain an indication as to whether your neck is involved if you notice the following about your headache:
- Associated with neck pain
- Always feels more severe on the same side of your head
- Triggered or worsened by neck movement or remaining in the same position for a long time
- Is eased by applying pressure to the base of the skull
- Persists after your GP has investigated other potential causes
How Physiotherapy Can Help With Headaches
Physiotherapy is a great treatment option for people that are suffering with headaches regularly. Physiotherapists are skilled at identifying and helping to address the common causes of headaches. The first step towards getting help with your headache is to book a headache assessment with a physiotherapist. During the assessment, the physio will aim to identify the type of headache that you are experiencing and evaluate whether your neck is a contributing to this. In order to do this, the physiotherapist may use:
- Mobilising the joints and muscles in your neck
- Functional and rehabilitative exercises
- Postural assessment and correction
- Acupuncture and electrotherapy
During your assessment, the physiotherapist should be able to recommend practical tips that you can follow to correct the cause of your headaches. These often include advice on ergonomic working, exercise, relaxation, and lifestyle adjustments.
Physiotherapy For Headaches
There are many physiotherapy-based treatments that can be used for headaches. The following treatments are the most used by physios.
Improving Neck Mobility
If your initial assessment indicates that your neck is causing or contributing to your headache, improving neck mobility is key. The physiotherapist will use targeted manual therapy techniques to improve upper neck joint mobility. They will also perform massages to release tight muscle soft tissues as this can often cause a significant proportion of headache pain. This is one of many ways that physiotherapy can help with headaches.
Completing A Pillow Assessment
The pillow that you use for sleeping has a significant impact on your neck, which in turn can cause headaches. The physio will perform a cervical pillow assessment to check that you are using the best possible pillow and that it can maintain a suitable neck position.
Correcting Poor Posture
Poor posture strains your back and neck muscles, which can contribute to headaches and migraines. Your physiotherapist can work with you to improve your posture while also providing expert advice as to how to maintain an ideal posture at home and work.
Recommending Suitable Exercises
Completing suitable exercises is a highly effective way of tackling the root cause of your headaches. During your sessions with the physiotherapist, they can demonstrate suitable exercises and allow you to practice and perfect them, so you are ready to complete them outside of the physiotherapy clinic.
Our Physiotherapists Are Ready To Help With Headaches
Our expert physiotherapists are ready to help you with your headache. We are experienced and skilled at treating different types of headaches with proven and effective treatments.
The first step to getting help with your headache is arranging an initial headache assessment with us. During your assessment we aim to evaluate whether your neck is causing your headache, identify what type of headache you are suffering from and provide expert advice on how to treat it. The initial assessment takes around an hour and any follow-up sessions are usually 30 minutes each.
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