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Can physiotherapy help treat and prevent headaches?

Headaches are one of, if not the most common health ailment suffered by people all across the world. It is natural to be worried about the origins of headaches, especially those that just won’t go away. With so many causes of headaches, it is impossible to say that one method or treatment will work for everyone. Physiotherapy, however, has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments for Cervicogenic (neck based) headaches, as well as tension headaches in general.

 

Knowing the difference between different types of headaches is beneficial in understanding what may help to relieve and prevent it in the future. The four most common types of headache are-

  • Tension Headache
  • Cluster Headache
  • Sinus Headache
  • Migraine

Each of these headaches has a different distribution of pain, although they often overlap each other. Of the four, tension headaches are the most common, with more than 70% of all headaches being of this kind[1](Cervicogenic included). Despite being dubbed ‘tension’ headaches, they aren’t necessarily caused by tension or stress. There are many triggers that can induce tension headaches including-

  • Overuse of medication
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Excessive muscle contraction (clenching jaw)
  • Long periods of concentration (reading, driving)
  • Poor posture
  • Emotional responses and issues including depression
  • Exhaustion and physical fatigue

Migraine and Headache Australia collected data from a Sydney based clinic focused on tension headache onset and duration. The study showed that onset can occur at any age, with 15% of patients being under 10 years old, and some being over 50 when they first began experiencing tension headaches. They also found that 50% of patients had a headache every day that persisted from 10 years up to 30 and beyond[2].

Now I don’t know about you but living with a headache every day for 30 years does not tickle my fancy. Luckily, there are ways that your titled physiotherapist in Sydney’s northern beaches can help. Physiotherapy can be an extremely effective treatment method for headaches, with physios being able to not only deliver expert physical treatment, but also practical and useful advice on lifestyle changes that can help with prevention of headaches.

Physiotherapists are experts in posture and the movement of the human body, allowing them to accurately determine whether your neck is causing or contributing to your headaches. Physiotherapists can use multiple methods when assessing for the source of your headaches, with the most common and effective being muscle manipulation. While this can be a very effective treatment for headaches caused by neck problems, it is not always the best solution in every case.

Treatment aims to address position changes and stiffness in the upper neck, thus reducing brainstem sensitivity and reducing the headache. Treatment can also address upper back /thoracic spine stiffness and specific muscle retraining and strengthening of the neck and upper back. Only after a thorough examination will your physio discuss possible treatment options, ensuring that you can progress with treatment in the safest and most effective way possible.

Physiotherapists are able to provide practical and useful advice around the prevention of headaches through alterations in your everyday life and routine. Simple things such as adjusting furniture and posture correction are a great place to start and your expert headache physiotherapist will be able to assess and determine the best course of action to treat and prevent headaches.

If you are experiencing headaches, physiotherapy may be the answer for you. Give our friendly team at Fixio Sports Physio and Pain Solutions Dee Why a call on (02) 8964 4086 or book online for an appointment today.

If you are experiencing severe headaches that are sudden or uncharacteristic, please consult your GP prior to booking your physiotherapy appointment.

[1] World Health Organisation. (2016, April). Headache Disorders. Retrieved from WHO: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/headache-disorders

[2] Alexander, Louise. (2020). Tension Type Headache. Retrieved from Migraine & Headache Australia: https://headacheaustralia.org.au/headachetypes/tension-type-headache/

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