Headaches appear as pain in the head, in or around the eyes or ears and behind the back of the head. There are many different types of headaches, and many different causes.
When treating a headache most people will reach for pain killers. Traditional headache pain relief typically comes from paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen. However, persistent headaches or chronic head pain may require an alternative treatment. Many people are turning to therapies or remedies that will complement, or even replace, conventional treatments for their headache.
What can physiotherapy do to help? Physiotherapists can help address some of the key contributing factors to the development of cervicogenic headaches. The major contributing factors include:
- Poor posture
- Stiffness of the joints in the neck and upper back
- Muscle imbalances (muscle tightness + muscle weakness)
- Previous neck trauma (ex: whiplash, sports injury)
Some of the treatment methods may include:
Joint Mobilizations:Passive movement techniques that aim to restore full pain-free joint range of motion and overall movement of the neck
Stretching:A regular stretching program is key in maintaining the flexibility of the neck muscles, which helps maximize function
Strengthening:Ongoing neck problems are often linked with weakness of the postural and supporting neck/back muscles (chin poke + rounded shoulders = weak postural muscles)
Massage/Trigger Point Release:Shortened muscles often have “trigger points” that can contribute to referred pain, relaxation or release of these tightened areas can help improve neck muscle function
Modalities:Heat, TENS, IFC (Interferential Current) or EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) can often be used in conjunction with manual techniques to help relieve some pain and muscle tension
Dry Needling: Acupuncture involves insertion of tiny needles to stimulate specific points near the surface of the skin in order to help restore blood flow and alter many conditions
A FEW TIPS TO HELP MANAGE HEADACHES ON YOUR OWN:
- Improve your posture while standing & sitting at work, home and even while driving
- Sit/stand up straight
- Pull the shoulders back and down
- Tuck your chin back slightly
- Tuck your belly in
- Stretch out those muscles!
- Stretches should be held for AT LEAST 30 seconds (a minute is even better) and done several times throughout the day
- Do not hold your breath during stretches, allow your body to relax and breathe normally
- Keep hydrated!
- Attempt to better manage your daily stress
Your Revive Physiotherapist will also provide postural and ergonomic advice if this is outlined to be a contributing factor. Implementation of a specialised neck pillow may also be provided as well as other preventative measures.
Just remember, if you’re experiencing headaches, you shouldn’t have to just “deal with it”. Hopefully we can help!