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Headaches

Common Types of Headaches

01- Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. Tension headaches are often described as involving the feeling of a tight band around the head and are often associated with muscle tightness in the head, neck, or jaw.
Tension headaches can be due to physical and/or emotional stress. Poor posture, and muscle tension in the back, shoulders and neck can cause referred pain in the head. Emotional stress is believed to trigger the bodies fight or flight response, resulting in the release of stress chemicals such as adrenaline or cortisol.

02- Neck Headaches

Neck headaches result from pain referred from an underlying neck issue.
There are many pain-sensitive structures that exist in the upper neck and back of the head. These structures – including the lining of the cervical spine, the joints, ligaments, cervical nerve roots and surrounding muscles – can cause pain in the presence of an underlying issue.

03- Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are considered to be one of the most painful types of headaches. They often awaken people in the middle of the night with intense pain in, behind, or around the eye on one side of the head.
Migraines can result in severe throbbing or pulsing pain, usually on one side of the head. This is often associated with other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to both light and sound. The causes of migraines are not well understood; however, it appears that genetics and environmental factors can play an important role. Suggested causes include alterations in the brainstem and its interactions and imbalances in brain chemicals, particularly serotonin. A number of factors can trigger migraines in different people. These include: certain foods (eg. salty or processed foods), stress, changes in sleeping patterns, bright lights, sun glare and certain medications.

HOW CAN A PHYSIOTHERAPIST HELP?

“It is vital that physiotherapy treatment and advice aims to address every component that contributes to your neck-related headache. Although it’s important, simply releasing tight muscles and loosening up stiff neck joints will not be sufficient to get to the cause of your pain. Your physiotherapist should assess your posture and muscle endurance, talk to you about your hobbies, exercise, sports, sleep, stress and tension.” states Linda.

Physiotherapy headache treatment may consist of a variety of hands-on techniques such as:

  • joint mobilisation
  • muscle stretching
  • soft tissue release techniques
  • dry needling for pain relief
  • western acupuncture
  • postural assessment
  • muscle strength and endurance re-education exercises
  • ergonomic assessment
  • neurodynamic assessment and treatment of your nerve tension
  • stress and tension management techniques including mindfulness-based stress reduction.

Your physiotherapist can also provide advice on ways to help prevent and manage some of the common underlying causes of headaches by focusing on different aspects of your lifestyle.

Examples include:
  • Posture – Your posture is very important. Try to make yourself stand tall with your chest lifted, shoulders relaxed, head level and chin tucked in.
  • Work – Avoid working with your head down for long periods of time, and frequently stretch and change positions.
  • Sleeping – Poor sleeping positions can put adverse strain on your neck. Your physiotherapist can advise you on which type of pillow may be best for you.
  • Exercise – Your physiotherapist can show you specific exercises that help with tight or weak muscles and can help you to restore normal function.
  • Relaxation – Learning to recognise when you are tense is an important component of tension headache physiotherapy. Your physiotherapist can show you a range of relaxation techniques that can help manage this.