How to Keep the Lid on a Headache

Headache Blog

More than 45% of the global population experiences regular headaches. If you’re one of these people, you’ll know that they’re no laughing matter. For some people, they’re just a minor inconvenience, for others they can be completely debilitating.

The problem is that successfully diagnosing a headache gets complicated, because more than 130 distinct disorders have been identified along with over 300 triggers. This makes a headache almost as unique as an individual.

To make matters worse, you can simultaneously suffer one, two or more types of headache or a migraine all at the same time. One type may cause another, or overlap with each other. These are known as mixed or multi-source headaches and can take longer to resolve as your therapist works through treating the different causes. For example, a dysfunctional painful neck can cause an increase in surrounding muscle spasm, which will increase your blood pressure. In this scenario, you could have a cervicogenic (neck) headache, with a tension headache and a resultant migraine!

The four most commonly diagnosed headaches are:

  • Migraines
  • Tension headache
  • Cervicogenic headache (originating from the neck)
  • Sinus headaches

If you only suffer from the occasional headache, this can commonly be caused by lifestyle factors such as:

  • Stress
  • Dehydration
  • Alcohol
  • Lack of sleep
  • Caffeine
  • Posture
  • Some foods
  • Skipped meals
  • High blood pressure
  • Medications
  • Muscular tension
  • Infection
  • Hormonal influences

However, if you do suffer from headaches more frequently, here is some reassuringly good news. Two of the most common headaches, tension-type headaches and cervicogenic headaches (which originate from musculoskeletal issues in and around the neck) can be significantly improved, and even cured by physical therapy, both in the short term, as well as the long term.

There has been a great deal of research, as well as clinical evidence, showing that physiotherapy is an extremely effective treatment for certain types of headache.

Manual, hands-on therapy manipulating or mobilising your neck can be hugely beneficial in eliminating your headache; or at least reducing the intensity, frequency and duration of the headache.

Soft tissue work including massage and trigger point therapy, can be effective in relieving spasm in the head and neck muscles which may be contributing to your headache. Massage has also been shown to help people cope better during headache episodes, reducing associated stress and anxiety.

Acupuncture is another therapy that could help with neck or cervicogenic headaches, and sinus headaches.

In addition, poor posture and repetitive movements in your daily life, have also been shown to increase the risk of experiencing headaches as they can cause muscle imbalances, muscle weakness and strain the ligaments and soft tissues in the joints of your neck. In these cases corrective exercises to strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight muscles can be highly effective.

We have some more downloadable resources and advice sheets on each specific headache type at the following link . If you would like to understand more about how Burton Physio Group can help in the treatment and prevention of headaches, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly.

Neil Sullivan MSc BSc (Hons) MCSP MSST

Burton Physio Group