Whether you have slept in an awkward position, recently bought a new pillow, are glued to your Ipad or have nagging children, I’m sure I won’t be the only one to say that headaches can be pretty annoying. Most of the times we tend to see headache suffers come into the clinic as a last resort option or looking for the ‘Hail Mary’ treatment. Headaches tend to be underestimated, poorly recognised and undertreated in today’s society. This is where we as physios step in - help is at the ready and waiting!
Headaches can be complicated and varying in nature, so I’m not saying we know all the answers. The reason headaches are one of the most common disorders of the nervous system is due to the varying causes of headaches. For example; dehydration, neurological deficits, visual sensory overload (combination of bright lights and squinting), tight muscles, stiff neck joints and migraines can all causes different types of headaches.
Although there are lot of contributing factors, there are some very common headaches which we can treat easily. The two main types of headaches which physiotherapists assist with are described as ‘Tension’ or ‘Cervicogenic’ headaches. Tension headaches are usually caused by postural deficits (slouched sitting/driving) that lead to overworked muscles in the neck and shoulders. We know these particular muscles have been shown to refer pain to the head and neck region themselves. Additionally, when these muscles are tight they will also pull on the fascia, which is the tissue that makes up the majority of our scalp.
These headaches are typically seen in the office workers and truck driver population due to the significant amount of time they spend seated for their job. This headache is usually coupled with stiffness in the neck and between the shoulder blades which isn’t usually relieved by movement/ stretches. Tackling these headaches is pretty simple, all we need to do is address the muscle imbalances with stretches/strengthening exercises to provide long-term relief.
Cervicogenic headaches quite literally mean ‘headaches that come from the neck’. This type of headache can be diagnosed quite quickly. If your physio can poke a certain spot in your neck reproducing your headache, and then begins to reduce within 30 seconds, we can help you out. These headaches are caused by stiffness within the first three joints/vertebrae in your neck. These joints in your neck share the same nerve pathways as your face and scalp, so if they’re not moving effectively they will refer pain into the base of your skull and across the top of your head. Similarly to tension headaches, we will need to address the joint stiffness and possible muscle imbalances to get you on the right track.
The take home message is pretty simple, if you’re suffering from headaches, there is help out there for you. If you would like to know more about what can be done to help you feel free come make an appointment with myself or any of the skilled physiotherapists at Bodyfix Physio for an assessment and individualised program to help manage your headaches.