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Physiotherapy and Headaches

By May 4, 2020 No Comments

Headaches 

Most of us will experience a headache at some point in our lives. In fact, the prevalence of headaches is said to be around 47% of the population at any one time. For some, headaches are a constant and chronic condition. For others, headaches may be fleeting. Regardless, headaches are an incredibly debilitating condition that can impact all aspects of your day to day life. 

The good news is that Physios are highly trained to assess and determine the source of your headache and to help alleviate your pain. At Platinum Physio, we have leading Clinicians in the diagnosis and treatment of headaches. Here’s how our Physios can help you.

Understanding the Cause of Your Headache

Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches are headaches which stem from musculoskeletal structures in your neck. These headaches are easily provoked by head movement or pressure on neck structures and the pain feels like it’s coming from the back of your neck. This sort of  headaches can be triggered by issues caused by your:

  • sitting posture
  • sleeping position
  • poor upper back flexibility
  • poor muscle function
  • your desk set-up not being right for you
  • stress
  • a past history of neck injury or whiplash

Cervicogenic headaches account for between 1-2% of all headaches and are primarily treated by Physiotherapy.  If you think this might be your headache, book an appointment now

Migraine Headaches

Migraines are defined as severe, pulsating headaches affecting either the right or left side of your head, which are accompanied by either nausea or sensitivity to noise and/or light. Whilst generally the term‘ Migraine’ is used to describe any severe headache, there are actually over 30 different types of clinical migraines, ranging from ‘abdominal’ migraines to ‘genetic’ migraines. Despite being a commonly used term, migraines only account for around 10% of all headaches, and are primarily treated by a GP or specialist who can help you manage the cause and the pain itself. Over time, regular Migraines can result in Cervicogenic issues which could further trigger the Migraines. Physiotherapy can become an essential and helpful part of your management and relief.

Tension Type Headaches

Tension type headaches are mild to moderate headaches which recur – at least 10 episodes – and can last anywhere between 30 minutes to 7 days per episode. They also generally affect both the right and left side of the head, are non-pulsating, and are not aggravated by routine physical activities. Tension type headaches are the most common form of headache, accounting for around 38% of all headaches. They are generally treated by a doctor, often taking into consideration a complete analysis to determine the underlying cause. Over time, recurrent Tension Headaches will likely result in Cervicogenic issues and Physiotherapy can become an essential and helpful part of your management and relief.

Other more serious causes of headache and what to do

If you are experiencing headaches which are accompanied by other neurological symptoms such as weakness, numbness, loss of vision, loss of speech or fainting or if you are experiencing an abrupt onset of an unusually severe headache, this may be indicative of a neurological or vascular episode and it is recommended you call 000 immediately or speak to a doctor. Other causes that need to be investigated by your doctor include cancer, infection or inflammatory disorders which our Physiotherapists can screen and refer you on for.

When should I see my Platinum Physio? 

If you are experiencing a headache which is brought on by prolonged postures, lifting, neck movements or poor sleep, our Platinum Physiotherapist will be your best point of call. Our experienced Physiotherapists will help to diagnose the cause of your headache. 

On your first visit to us, your Platinum Physio will take time to hear about your headache experience, what aggravates and what eases your pain, what times in the day it tends to come on and what you are doing at these times. We want to know how your pain feels to you and how it impacts on all aspects of your life so we can help you get back to doing the things you like. We will also screen you to ensure your headache isn’t caused by serious health problems.

Following this, we will conduct a comprehensive examination. This will usually involve looking at where you experience your headache, tension in your neck and upper back regions, assessing your posture and spine and how you move, your ability to relax your neck and upper back muscles, as well as screening for your strength and fitness, if this is contributing. We may also check things like your sensation and reflexes and do tests to check if your nerves are sensitive.

Based on all this information we will then explain to you in simple language the factors that are contributing to your headache, and discuss the best treatment options available to you.

Physiotherapy treatment of your headache

Our effective Physiotherapy treatment of your headache may involve:

  • hands-on techniques: manual therapy treatments to relax you and get you moving – these may include specific mobilisations and soft tissue massage as well as dry needling. 
  • guiding you in relaxation of your neck and upper back muscles and retraining you to restore relaxed neck movement. By helping you improve your body awareness and understanding your posture, you will understand how you can reduce the tension in your neck and upper back regions
  • Next, to help you prevent recurrence of headaches in the future and, particularly if you suffer from long standing or recurrent headaches, our Platinum Physios will guide and progress your neck muscle activation and retraining
  • We will help you to get strong and confident with strategies and activity modification specifically tailored for you to easily implement at home and at work. This may include 
    • work-station reviews
    • sleep positioning and pillow recommendations 
    • analysis and consideration of your work and social situations to help discover and resolve underlying causative factors

Can my headache be helped via Telehealth? 

If you are socially isolating or are in quarantine, a Telehelath appointment can assist in diagnosing your headache and putting some immediate strategies in place to reduce your pain. These may also include desk set-up, improving your sleep with the right pillow, tailored exercise and pacing to help you return to the life you love. Where possible, it is recommended that you visit one of our clinics for face to face Physiotherapy for the very best results. 

To find out more, please call us on 8554 0111 to speak to a Platinum Physio or to book in an appointment today.