There are many people out there that suffer regular and debilitating headaches that can disrupt even the smallest activities in their lives. So what causes headaches and can physiotherapy help?
There are many different causes of headaches and it is very important that you get an accurate diagnosis from a medical health professional to ensure an effective treatment plan.
Causes for headaches include:
- Migraine related headaches – Migraines can affect about 15% of the population, generally last from 4-72hrs and can include some associated symptoms such as nausea or light sensitivity. Migraines can also be associated with auras in some people or as a simply a warning symptom that may occur prior to a migraine, which include visual disturbance such as flashing lights or changes in smell perception. Treatment for migraine can be difficult and often needs a collaborative approach with physiotherapy and your medical team. It may include medication in order to prevent the onset of symptoms.
- Blood pressure or vascular related headaches – Headaches can be more dangerous if they are associated with an increase in blood pressure or vascular problems. These headaches need to seek medical attention urgently.
- Dehydration and Blood Sugar Levels – Insufficient water intake or a lowering of your blood sugar levels can also result in the onset of headache in some people. This needs to be managed with increased water intake, particularly if it is hot weather or you are exercising and ensuring that you maintain adequate nutrition throughout the day to maintain a more consistent blood sugar level.
- Upper neck joint restriction – The very top joints in the cervical spine when compressed or overloaded can add to the onset of headache. Headaches from the neck region typically are just under the skull and can radiate into the temple region or just behind the eye. Neck related headaches are typically aggravated by activates such as computer work, reading or driving. You do not need to have experienced previous neck injuries such as whiplash to have the onset of a neck related headache and often people are unaware that their neck joints may be contributing to the pain that they are experiencing.
- TMJ Restriction – Restriction or excessive tension in the jaw can also contribute to the onset of headaches. This can occur after an injury but also occur as a result of dental work or a jaw-clenching pattern with stress.
As you can see there are many different reasons and causes for headache and it is important that you get an accurate diagnosis! Physiotherapy will not help in the presence of migraine or vascular related headaches, however, can be very effective in managing neck and jaw related headaches.
Let’s explore this further!
The very top neck joints can become compressed and overloaded and contribute to pain if your chin pokes forward and the base of your skull compresses down onto the very top part of your neck. This can occur with poor posture, such as using a non-optimal workstation, or weakness through the postural muscles of the neck.
Here are Synergy Physio’s key tips to preventing and treating neck related headaches.
- Ensure your workstation is set up correctly – This means the keyboard is to be close to the body with the elbows at 90 degrees. The top of the screen needs to be relatively level with your eyes. Prolonged periods using a laptop can be problematic due to the limitations with screen and keyboard positioning. For more helpful quick and easy tips on how to set up your computer station- click here .
- Stretch the ribcage – If your thorax and ribcage are tight and restricted this can contribute to a slumped posture, which results in the inevitable forward slide and poking of the head. This position can be very problematic for the upper neck joints. If you are on a computer for any length of time, make sure you take a break every 30 minutes to stretch up and twist the body to ensure enough movement and mobility through your thorax. Click here for our favourite foam roller thoracic stretches.
- Stay strong in your postural muscles – It is important that your postural muscles that affect the neck and shoulders have endurance to maintain good posture and prevent excessive compression or squashing of the upper neck joints. This includes the muscles of the shoulder blades or scapula region and also includes the tiny muscles at the base of you skull called your deep neck flexors. See you physiotherapist for accurate exercises to improve your deep neck flexor strength and endurance to help prevent the onset of headache. Learn about our physio-pilates classes here to improve your posture!
- Monitor your stress levels! – There are many people who have stress habits that include clenching the jaw or tightening the shoulders. These muscular habits often don’t help relieve our stress and only add to muscular skeletal pain such as headache or jaw pain. It is important to learn effective stress management tools and one of our favourite tools is meditation. Simple mindfulness meditation techniques and also breathing techniques can help manage stressful situations without the negative health effects that can occur with excessive muscle tension. Would you like to know more about meditation for pain relief? Click here for our online program!
- Seek physiotherapy treatment – Too often we treat people who wish they had come sooner. Seeking physiotherapy treatment can mean that you get an accurate diagnosis of your problem and if your neck or jaw are contributing to the onset of your headaches, a physiotherapist can provide manual therapy for pain relief to help offload the upper neck joints. They can also provide a specific prescription of exercises and some self-help tips that mean you can treat and manage your own headaches.
Our team here at Synergy Physio have expertise in the management of spinal problems. Together our team work in a thorough manner to provide a complete biomechanical assessment of your problem as well as a thorough step-by-step explanation and treatment plan to help you move forward to a healthier happier you! Learn more about our physiotherapy team here!
Would you like and assessment and treatment plan for the management of your headaches?