Headache can occur at any part of head. When there is no underlying cause than they are called primary headaches otherwise secondary headaches. Below are the two most common primary headaches that are:
- Tension type headaches are the first most common primary treated by physiotherapy treatment. These may occur due to muscle spasm or ligamentous sprain in neck. A person can feel dull aching that progresses with the day and may also refer to or from the neck. They can be episodic or chronic.
- Migraines are the second most common of primary headaches. They mainly occur at one side of head and may be accompanied by nausea, blur vision and light-headedness.
Our trained registered physiotherapists will assess other possible causes for your headache and prescribe options for symptom relief.
Some of the causes may include:
Poor posture neck and upper back stiffness
Previous neck trauma (e.g., whiplash)
Inappropriate desk set up.
Inappropriate pillow or sleeping postures.
Sedentary lifestyle comprising excessive slouching, bending forwards or shoulders forwards activities.
Stiff joints in the upper neck are the primary cause of cervicogenic headaches. Under ideal circumstances, joints are allowed to glide freely to provide pain-free movement of the neck. If a joint, surrounding ligaments or muscles are injured or irritated, the joints can become stiff and cause pain to be referred into areas of the head or around the eyes. Here is a list of symptoms that are generally associated with this type of headache:
- Constant and dull ache.
- Slow onset with an unclear cause.
- May be present for days, weeks or even months.
- Stiffness or restricted movement of the neck.
- Pain is worse on one side.
- Pain radiates from the back to the front of the head.
- Headache can be eased when pressure is applied at the base of the skull.
- Headache worsened by sustained postures or certain neck movements.
- Possible dizziness, light-headedness, or nausea.
What can physiotherapy do to help?
Physiotherapists can help address some of the key contributing factors to the development of cervicogenic headaches. The major contributing factors include:
- Poor posture
- Stiffness of the joints in the neck and upper back
- Muscle imbalances (muscle tightness + muscle weakness)
- Previous neck trauma (ex: whiplash, sports injury)
To properly tackle some of these factors, a full assessment of the neck and upper back is always carried out by our physiotherapist to provide an accurate focus for the treatment.
Physiotherapy Treatment consists of:
Passive movement techniques that aim to restore full pain-free joint range of motion and overall movement of the neck.
A regular stretching program is key in maintaining the flexibility of the neck muscles, which helps maximize function. Proper stretching form and technique is also crucial to release any built-up tension within the surrounding muscles.
Ongoing neck problems are often linked with weakness of the postural and supporting neck/back muscles (chin poke + rounded shoulders = weak postural muscles). Strengthening exercises require applying resistance to the muscle group which will allow for muscle growth as well as improving overall strength.
Massage / Trigger Point Release:
Shortened muscles usually called as Suboccipital muscles often have “trigger points” that can contribute to referred pain, relaxation or release of these tightened areas can help improve neck muscle function.
Heat, TENS, IFC (Interferential Current) or EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) can often be used in conjunction with manual techniques performed by the physiotherapists to help relieve some pain and muscle tension.
Needling (Acupuncture or IMS)
Acupuncture involves insertion of tiny needles to stimulate specific points near the surface of the skin in order to help restore blood flow and alter many conditions.
Our experienced team of Physiotherapist, Chiropractor and Registered Massage therapists will pinpoint the cause of your headache and instigate migraine physiotherapy treatment to relieve the symptoms and treat the origin of the pain. This tension headache treatment usually includes the gentle manual mobilization of the facet joints of your upper neck and back.