MIGRAINES AND HEADACHES
Does Therapy Provide Relief for Headaches?
One of the most common types of headache is one which originates from the neck and is called a cervicogenic headache. (The other most common origin of headache is vascular, including migraines).
How does your neck condition cause a headache? It occurs when pain is referred from your neck structures following damage from prolonged use, incorrect posture, or from traumatic injury. The force placed on the nerves, ligaments, joints, and muscles in your neck causes stress and pain suddenly builds up gradually over time, leading to cervicogenic headache.
Cervicogenic headache pain may be felt in the head, jaw, forehead, ears or back of the eyes, and is referred typically from the top three neck vertebra. Usually patients are between the ages of 20-60 years old, but it can occur at any age.
What Causes a Cervicogenic Headache?
If you work at a computer or have poor posture or slouch for prolonged periods, these activities put excessive stress on the upper joints of the neck. Also, cervicogenic headaches can occur following a car accident (whiplash) or after heavy lifting activities.
Cervicogenic Headache Symptoms
Usually patients experience neck pain and stiffness in the morning after waking up which develops into a cervicogenic headache. There may be difficulty in turning your neck, and sometimes there may be nausea or dizziness that accompanies these symptoms.
A return to the poor posture, slouching or keyboard work may increase the symptoms again in the day. I can usually tell the origin of my headache if my neck is tender to palpation just below the base of the skull and the muscles are tight.
How Can a Physiotherapist Help My Cervicogenic Headache?
Our experienced physiotherapists are usually quick to pinpoint the cause of your headache and instigate treatment to relieve the symptoms and treat the origin of the pain. This treatment usually includes the gentle manual mobilization of the facet joints of your upper neck and back.
If your cervicogenic headache is mild and with recent onset, you should be pain free within a few days. For more traumatic origin or chronic cases, the treatment will be longer in duration.
What Other Factors Can Cause Cervicogenic Headaches?
Our trained physiotherapists will assess other possible causes for your headache pain and prescribe options for symptom relief. These may include:
- poor posture
- neck and upper back stiffness
- muscle imbalances
- muscle weakness
- muscle tightness
- previous neck trauma (e.g. whiplash)
- inappropriate desk setup
- inappropriate pillow or sleeping postures
- sedentary lifestyle comprising excessive slouching
- bending forwards or shoulders forwards activities