Physiotherapy can serve to eliminate, or reduce the frequency of your head pain through manual techniques and exercise focussing on the neck and upper back. We can also give you the information you require to help relieve the impact headaches are having on you and your lifestyle, hobbies, friends and family.
There is hope for people with migraine and headache pain. The vast majority of our patients see a decrease in the intensity and frequency of headaches after physiotherapy as well as immediate pain relief with treatment.
Who Suffers From Headaches?
You are not alone, headache, migraines and tension headaches are an extremely common condition in Australia, with the following statistics being reported by Headache & Migraine Australia:
- 4.9 million people in Australia suffer from headaches.
- 71% of headache sufferers are women and 86% are of working age.
- 7.6% of migraine sufferers experience chronic headache (≥15 headaches days per month).
- The total economic cost of headache in Australia is $35.7 billion.
Different Types Of Headaches
There are many common types of headaches which can differ in severity, duration and frequency. There are two main categories of headaches, Primary and Secondary headache.
Primary headaches are not due to any other condition and is the condition itself. It encompasses migraines, cervicogenic headaches, tension headaches, cluster headaches and exertion headaches.
Secondary headaches are those that arise due to something else, these include caffeine withdrawal headaches, head injury induced headaches, hangover headaches, or medication induced headaches.
What Causes Headaches?
Unfortunately, there’s no one answer to this question. Headaches, like most pain-related issues in the brain, are caused by a multitude of factors. This can include a combination of the following things:
- The muscles and joints in the neck. This is more often than not caused by a build-up of
- Poor ergonomics at work, or a high volume of sitting that causes overload in the upper
- Back and neck joints and muscles (cervical spine and thoracic spine)
- Referral from the muscles in the jaw or head
- Hormones (some headaches might have links to your monthly cycle, or other hormone
- Stress and anxiety (even to lifestyle or financial issues)
- Vision issues
- More sinister issues such as tumors and head/neck pathology.
How Can Physiotherapy Help Headaches And Migraines?
Our headache treatments are unrivalled in the adelaide physiotherapy world for their investigative accuracy and results. At Thrive Physio Plus we have clinicians trained in the Watson Headache Approach, and can help determine if disorders in the upper neck are responsible for headache or migraine and determine the exact nature of the problem as well as which spinal joints are involved. There is no guesswork and no cracking or manipulation. Its unique and powerful treatment involves temporary reproduction and resolution (easing) of usual head pain. For further information, go to: www.WatsonHeadacheApproach.com.
The first step to treating headaches and migraines that we believe are a result of your neck is assessment for stiffness and muscle tension in particular areas. Different joints and muscles in your upper neck, near your base of skull, refer head pain to different areas in your skull. For example, one joint typically gives pain behind the eyes, whilst another gives pain over the brow and forehead. Finding the source of the stiffness and tension and addressing it can help alleviate the referral to your head, and help reduce the severity or frequency of your symptoms in the short term.
Exercise For Long-Term Headache Relief
Outside of hands-on physiotherapy treatment to provide short term relief, addressing associated stiff or weak neck and upper backs is a key component in getting a great long term outcome. The stronger and more mobile your upper back, the less force your neck has to withstand and the less likely you’ll experience head pain.
Some clients will have a stiff back, but good strength. Others will have good mobility, but poor strength and endurance. Some even have both, whilst others have neither! With chronic headache sufferers, we endeavour to have both. If we can give a client adequate mobility, and a high level of postural and upper back strength – we’re likely to get the best outcome possible!
Why Do Strength And Mobility Matter?
Someone with a strong and mobile upper back can hold their head in prolonged postures for a longer period of time without putting undue stress on the ligaments and joints in their neck. The muscles support the neck for a longer period of time before the neck starts to be exposed to the forces that eventually cause head pain.
Mobility in the upper back works in a similar fashion. If we have an upper back with enough mobility, the neck can twist and move with the freedom it needs without being exposed to increased force. With a stiff upper back, the neck becomes more restricted in its range of motion and is exposed to higher forces during movement and day to day life.
How Posture Affects Headaches And Migraines
Our head is heavy, and it becomes heavier the more we’re looking down or sticking our neck out. When we look at the picture below, we can see that in a nice upright position, the weight of the head on the neck is approximately 4kg. As we tilt our head to look down, even slightly, the head becomes heavier, increasing incrementally the longer and further we look down. This means there’s significantly more strain on the discs, joints, ligaments and muscles in your neck that are being exposed to all this increased load.
If our posture is poor for a short time, no big deal. But poor posture for extended periods, in particular forward head posture in headache and migraine sufferers, is a major factor in the development of neck related headaches and migraines. We’re asking the tissues and structures in our neck to cope with loads that they can’t withstand for that amount of time, which results in neck/back pain that can lead to headaches and migraines.
The Key Takeaways
If you’ve been battling with chronic headache and migraine for years, physiotherapy can help you. Importantly, they can help to ensure that there’s nothing sinister driving your head pain, whilst helping to get to the root cause of your headache and migraine symptoms.
We can then work with you in a safe fashion to provide you with strategies and treatment techniques that often provide relief or resolution. Patience is key with the management of these conditions, so seek help and stay the course.
If you’d like to know how we can reduce your headaches or migraines, book a time online or call our Adelaide clinic on 8490 0777 to start your journey to better health today. Alternatively, fill out the enquiry form below and we’ll get one of our experienced Physiotherapist practitioners to give you a call.