Neck-related tension and/or cervicogenic headaches
Neck-related headaches such as tension and cervicogenic headaches are the most commonly experienced type of headache that can last minutes or in extreme cases, days. The pain can be on one or both sides of the head and neck, sometimes changing location. The pain can be associated with a pressing, tightening or stiffening and while nausea is usually not a symptom, sensitivity to light or sound can be. A tension type headache can begin from the upper neck/base of skull and radiate into the forehead/temple area while it also can be accompanied with neck pain (Usually one sided however it can affect both sides)
Tension headaches are caused by tight or contracted muscles of the neck, scalp, face or jaw. Cervicogenic headaches are caused by dysfunction of the joints in the upper neck. The Atlanto-occipital joint (O-C1), Atlanto-axial joint (C1/2), and C2/3 cervical spine joints are the neck joints most commonly involved in neck headaches.
Migraine vs a headache
Migraines usually produce symptoms that are more intense and debilitating than standard headaches. A migraine will vary in its intensity, often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. There can be some warning symptoms like hormonal changes, certain food and drink, lack of sleep, stress or exercise. They usually cause throbbing in one particular area that pain-relieving medication may help manage with direction from a health professional.
While not as common, trigeminal neuralgia is a painful condition, causing severe facial pain on one side of the face. The pain can be felt over the front of the scalp, forehead, cheek, gums, and around the jaw. It is caused by a disorder of the trigeminal nerve. Sometimes this is due to pressure on the nerve from a blood vessel, or potentially from multiple sclerosis or other lesions/abnormalities on the nerve. It causes brief electric shock-like pains that last anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes. This severe shooting pain is usually caused by the irritation of the fifth cranial nerve, which has its innervation to the forehead, cheek, and lower jaw and usually involves one side of the face
The following are the most common scenarios that we explore during a consultation with people who are visiting our physiotherapy clinics for headache relief;
What are the most common causes of headaches
How does a physiotherapist help treat headache pain?
It is a bit like putting a new coat of paint on a wall that is suffering from water damage. It won’t take long for new bubbles to re-surface because the underlying issue isn’t being addressed. Or think about a garden full of weeds, you can cut them all or run the lawnmower over them, but the root cause of the growth isn’t being addressed so they will return soon enough.
So while medication can be used for treating headache pain, each individual should seek advice from a health professional. Just keep in mind that this form of treatment is designed to provide short-term pain relief but it doesn’t necessarily help with all the causes of the pain.
This simply means a person will most likely suffer from it again because the root cause isn’t being addressed. So in some senses, it is a band-aid solution that for some people might require regular use of medication over long periods of time. Depending on that is and the general health condition of that person this can have other side effects.
Our physiotherapy practioner Tim helped David who was experiencing headaches that was keeping him up all hours of the night and he couldn’t sleep. David explains what his experience was like at Switch
Switch Physiotherapy Concord
Deborah, Age 50
Works at a school, currently working from home
Deborah wanted headache pain treatment in Concord as she was spending long periods of time working from home and using her kitchen table as the work desk. She was getting daily headaches and taking medication multiple times a day. We helped explore the reasons why she was suffering from headaches and identified poor posture from the incorrect seat and desk height, as well as increased levels of stress she was experiencing while working from home.
We have seen huge improvement compared to her original symptoms with significantly less issues day to day. Switch Physiotherapy in Concord is currently completing a maintenance program for her one time a month which is focused on keeping her body in check with treatment, revised exercises and giving her ongoing education about reducing the occurrence of headaches while working in Concord.
Treatment from Switch Concord Physiotherapy included;:
– hands on treatment including: soft tissue release, joint mobilisations, dry needling, active release techniques
– postural training + alignment of body
– strength training + strength program
Switch Physiotherapy Penshurst
Evan, Aged 34
Tension headaches for 1 yr due to previous neck injury.
Switch Physiotherapy in Penshurst helped with headache pain treatment for Evan who was experiencing tension headaches regularly for over 12 months. Evan had suffered a neck injury which was contributing to the headaches but we also discovered he had prolonged periods of sitting in a chair with very poor posture while he worked.
So the neck injury combined with incorrect posture was creating a perfect storm when it comes to the onset of headache pain. Since our physiotherapy clinic in Penshurst has helped him Evan has been headache free for just over 2 weeks.
Treatment from Switch Penshurst Physiotherapy included;:
– treatment with manual therapy techniques aimed at reducing muscle tension, joint stiffness and neck range of motion/mobility.
– Created different movement exercises targeting muscle control, flexibility/mobility and neural mobility.
Switch Physiotherapy Maroubra
Sarah, Aged 23
Headaches while studying at University.
Sarah had been suffering from migraines and headaches for many years and she felt them getting worse when she studied at university. She was unable to focus or study as they were occuring every week.
Sarah struggled to identify the root cause, she even went to a neurologist and tried numerous medications, she even consulted an orthopedic surgeon to see if that could determine the cause. Unfortunately that didn’t help the situation, so Sarah tried physio for her headache treatment.
It was diagnosed as a neck issue but that didn’t work to alleviating the headaches and she began to lose hope.
Treatment from Switch Maroubra Physiotherapy;
– When Sarah came to Switch Physio in Maroubra we explored her history at length and we identified the area of concern to predominantly be around her shoulder area rather than the neck. We created an evidence based treatment plan that targeted the right physio treatment to focus on the underlying cause of the headaches.
– Sarah now hardly gets any headaches and her situation is much more manageable.
Switch Physiotherapy Penshurst
Angela, Aged 27
Left sided tension headaches from sitting at a desk.
Angela visited our physio clinic in Penshurst as she was suffering from left sided tension headaches accompanied by muscular tightness in her neck and upper back. She suffered tension headaches 1-2 ties per week which were described as moderate in severity spanning from the top of her head to her temple.
What we discovered is that Angela sits for long periods due to the nature of her work and has had tension headaches for the past year.
Treatment from Switch Penshurst Physiotherapy included;
– soft tissue release techniques
– joint mobilisations
– mobility based exercises for her neck and upper back.
– resistance based exercises now
Angela has been headache free for at least 2 weeks since her headache physio treatment began.
In the past few years, Switch has seen an increase in the number of clients suffering from headaches and migraines. The cause of this condition can be due to a number of factors such as poor or deteriorating pillow quality, poor ergonomics at the workplace, or tech neck. In the video below, James, one of our physiotherapists, shows you some basic exercises and muscular stretches to help relieve headache pain in the comfort of your own home.
Many people will try and buy a new pillow or bed mattress in an attempt to relieve the pain they suffer from headaches or neck tension. While this action can help manage the health conditions you might be suffering, they don’t treat the root cause of why your neck is sore or what is creating the headache tension in the first place.
So in theory there is no such thing as the ‘best pillow’ because every single person’s health situation will be completely different and unique. That is why it is important to seek professional medical advice about treating the underlying health condition first.
If you don’t, then all you will be doing is constantly trying to find quick solutions to dealing with the pain rather than focussing on how to stop it from occurring in the first place.
Yes the Switch physio team are very experienced at helping people reduce the pain they suffer from headaches. We explore what is causing the headaches and provide an evidence based treatment plan to stop them from happening again.
Yes the Switch physio team are very experienced at providing headache and migraine care for patients who are getting these regularly. We focus our efforts on treating the cause of the headaches so that you can reduce your reliance on medication or other forms of short term pain relief.