Headaches are very common afflictions, with millions of people suffering from them on a daily basis. Headaches can also be broken down into two categories; namely, primary and secondary headaches.
Primary headaches are not caused by an underlying illness. As for secondary headaches, they are caused by an underlying illness or condition, such as a tumour or infection. Physiotherapists are specialists on the movement and posture of the human anatomy.
They are able to use their expertise in order to prevent, manage, and diagnose the most common headache types. For example, their examination of your body may help them determine that a soft-tissue problem that involves your neck is the underlying cause of your chronic headaches.
Here, we will delve deeper into how physiotherapy can help get rid of terrible headaches.
What are the different types of headaches?
Tension headaches are often triggered by stress. You may feel an aching and dull sensation all over the head region. Throbbing is rare with tension headaches.
Neck headaches also involve neck pain. They can be triggered by stress, poor posture, and even hangovers.
Cervicogenic headaches are caused by a dysfunction in the neck region. Poor posture, strain, concessions, and whiplash are often the cause. The patient will usually feel tension in the back of their head and in the neck area as well.
Cluster headaches usually cause piercing and burning pain. They occur on one side of the face or behind one of the eyes before moving to the other side/eye.
Migraine headaches are characterized by a very intense pulsing sensation. If you are suffering from a migraine, you will usually feel it deep within your head, and the pain can last for several days in some cases.
How can a physiotherapist help with headaches?
A clinical examination is performed in order to determine the root cause of your headache, as well as the type of headache that you are currently dealing with.
Physical therapy has been clinically proven to improve quality of life, augment mobility and function, and reduce the need and use of medication. The ease of motion in the neck area will also be enhanced.
Physical therapy will also decrease, or even resolve, the duration, frequency, and intensity of your headaches via manual therapy. Manual therapy involves the use of dry needling in some cases in order to treat certain headache types.
Hands-on techniques are implemented to reduce muscle and joint stiffness, decrease muscle spasms and tension, and enhance the mobility of the neck and head regions as well.
Physiotherapists will also educate you on potential headache and migraine triggers so that you can avoid them in the future. They will teach you home-exercise programs so that you can alleviate headache symptoms at your convenience.
The exercises are personalized according to your health and unique needs and will help reduce inflammation and pain while also augmenting endurance and overall health.
In sum, physiotherapy procedures will vary depending on your medical health and specific headache condition.
Physical Therapy Exercises and Techniques for Headaches
There are many active and passive physiotherapy techniques that can be used to treat headaches. Strengthening exercises may be used that target your joints and muscles. Pain relief exercises may be implemented in order to reduce inflammation, tension, and pain.
Massage therapy may be used to not only alleviate pain, but also improve posture, augment mobility, and strengthen your upper back, shoulder, and neck muscles. Ultrasounds may also need to be administered in order to help identify the root cause of your headaches.
From soft tissue mobilization and heat and ice therapy to low-impact aerobics and muscular releases, your physical therapist will custom tailor a treatment plan for you in order to specifically target the root cause of your headaches.
Physical therapy has been clinically shown to decrease the severity, intensity, and frequency of headaches. By identifying the source of the problem, instead of providing band-aid solutions (such as painkillers and acetaminophen), the physical therapist will be able to treat the problem at the point of origin.
In the meanwhile, you can make a few changes at home in order to help reduce your headaches. For example, you can try lessening your alcohol intake, and also try to quit smoking if you smoke.
Avoid overly caffeinated beverages and soda, and try to work at an ergonomic workstation. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day, and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Listen to music and try to avoid stress triggers that can cause tension headaches.
Take breaks during work in order to get away from your workstation. During your breaks, stretch, relax your eyes and get some fresh air. Any unusual and sudden symptoms should also be reported to your doctor.