Headaches – Self Treatment and Physio
Did you know that up to 18% of the population have a headache at any one time? There are up to 100 varieties of headaches, all causing different types of pain in different areas of your head. Some common headaches include:
- Migraines without Aura – Migraines are thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance and typically cause intense head pain, which is often at the front of the head and usually one sided. Other symptoms may include nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines require medical management.
- Migraines with Aura – as above however they are preceded by warning signs such as flashing lights, blind spots, tingling, nausea, etc.
- Tension Headaches – The most common type of headache. It feels like a constant dull ache or pressure around the temples and back of the head. There can be a number of different triggers such as stress, substance withdrawal, lack of sleep, etc and they usually respond to over the counter pain medication.
- Cervicogenic Headaches – Pain that is usually worse on one side more than the other but otherwise similar to a tension headache. The pain arises from structures in the neck. Read more about headaches here.
How do structures in the neck cause headaches?
We feel pain in our head because the nerves that carry signals from the upper part of our neck and the back of our skull both enter the brainstem together. Therefore our brain finds it difficult to differentiate the area of dysfunction.
As cervicogenic headaches arise from dysfunction of the neck, physios are perfectly placed to offer very successful advice and treatment.
What causes cervicogenic headaches?
Cervical dysfunction may be triggered by a number of factors, which ultimately lead to a cervicogenic headache. Trauma to the neck such as whiplash from sporting injuries and car accidents is a common culprit. Poor posture is also amongst the most common causes, especially in those with office-based occupations. The human head is very heavy so a forward head posture places increased demand on the muscles in the neck required to hold the head in place. Overhead athletes can also suffer similar muscular fatigue leading to headaches. Ultimately, any abnormal stress to the muscles, joints (including arthritis), ligaments, discs, etc in the neck may cause headaches.
Temporary symptomatic relief from cervicogenic headaches may be achieved by taking simple analgesics. Effective long term management can only be achieved by determining and correcting the cause of your headache. Physios successfully treat hundreds of cervicogenic headaches every year so if this self treatment method doesn’t help, ensure you book a consult with your physio ASAP.
The majority of cervicogenic headaches are caused in part by muscular tension around the base of the skull/upper neck. You can determine whether these muscles are contributing to your headache by gently pressing a finger or thumb into the area just under the base of your skull (at the back). If the area to the left or right of the vertebrae is tender AND causes an aching sensation to refer into your head, you will benefit from trigger point therapy of these muscles.
To treat these muscles with effective trigger point therapy, maintain the pressure with your finger/thumb until the referred pain subsides. This may take anywhere from ten seconds to a minute. Then move your pressure to a different tender point and repeat the process. If the pain is severe or doesn’t resolve within one minute, stop and consult your physio.
For accurate diagnosis, education and effective treatment, call My Physio Perth today on 94476152 or book online at www.myphysioperth.com.au.