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Getting physio can help you resolve underlying health conditions that may be causing headaches or migraines. This can provide long term pain relief.

Getting physio for headaches or migraines Switch Physiotherapy Concord Maroubra Penshurst

Physiotherapy treatment for headaches or migraines

Many people don’t realise that it is possible to get treatment for headaches or migraines at our physiotherapy clinics in Concord, Penshurst or Maroubra in Sydney. Headaches are probably the most commonly reported health condition that most of the world’s adult population experiences. Everyone has had a headache at some point in their lives. Of course, the factors that contribute to a headache, and even the type of headache they experience, will vary between each person, their lifestyle. The physiotherapists in the Switch clinics will assess each individual to explore the possible causes to then create an evidence-based treatment plan. In the last 18 months, we have seen an increase in cases of people suffering from headaches. Quite a few of these are indirectly linked to increased levels of stress as well as changing work-from-home conditions.

A physiotherapist view on headache types & causes

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.

Trigeminal headaches.
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

What feedback do our physiotherapists receive about headaches?

When people visit our physiotherapy clinics to talk about getting help with the headaches they are experiencing these are the most common scenarios that we explore during a consultation;

  • They were sitting at a desk working all day or working from home so they felt a constant pull at the bottom of their head and neck area.
 
  • They were feeling sharp pains when moving in certain directions that was impacting their daily activities e.g. working, driving a car, playing with kids.
 
  • They were experiencing a stressful period in their life and a headache would appear suddenly and hang around for long periods of time.
 
  • They were feeling pain around their eyes with dizziness/blurred vision that was causing an inability to concentrate or perform work duties or sleep well.
 
  • They felt a sense of “being in the fog” and not able to focus on anything.
 
  • There was a feeling of neck tightness and pain around the shoulders.
 
  • Getting headaches was a chronic health condition that was being experienced “on and off with some good days and some bad days”
 
  • The headaches would occurring the mornings or after a work day
 
 
 

What are the most common causes of headaches

  • Lack of movement, sitting in sustained positions for too long.
 
  • Poor posture/sitting position – will cause excessive pulling on neck muscles
    Lack of daily exercise/muscle strength
 
  • Tightness in the neck and shoulders, muscles at the base of the skull/head
 
  • Lack of strength of smaller neck muscles
 
  • Certain types of jobs that place regular stress on body movements
 
  • Not getting the problem fixed early on & waiting for it to go away
 
  • Stressors – e.g. work stress

 

 

How does a physiotherapist help treat headache pain?

  • Improving the work desk area set up with a focus on posture and correct desk/seat/screen height
 
  • Physiotherapy treatment that is focused on settling the tension by releasing tight muscles that attach to the head and neck which pull and cause the ‘headache’ symptoms.
 
  • Physiotherapy to assist in improving the movement of the neck and mid back with a focus on strengthening these muscle areas for longer-term prevention of headaches occurring. The stronger these muscles are, the less effort they require to work.
 
  • Creating a movement plan that has a focus on ongoing daily exercise + consistent movement to keep your body muscles working & flexible.

Is medication a good idea for effective headache treatment?

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.

Patient examples from our physio clinics in Penshurst, Maroubra & Concord

Switch Physiotherapy Concord

Deborah, Age 50

Works at a school, currently working from home

The situation

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

– education

Switch Physiotherapy Penshurst

Evan, Aged 34

Tension headaches for 1 yr due to previous neck injury.

The situation

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.

The situation

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.

The situation

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.

Common questions about headache treatment

Switch provides headache treatment in Sydney in our three clinics that have experienced physiotherapists located in;

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.

JAMES BECERRA

JAMES BECERRA

Founder of Switch Physiotherapy. We have physio clinics located in Penshurst, Concord & Maroubra that focus on getting people out of pain and moving again.

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