Headaches - What a Pain in the Neck!
If you have experienced headaches before you are more than likely aware that they can be a real pain in the neck! They are often caused by issues in the surrounding neck area, whether they are muscular in nature, related to sub-optimal posture, stress or a combination of these factors. It is with these types of headaches where physiotherapy can have an very large impact on alleviating your symptoms in the short term whilst also achieving a long term resolution of your recurrent headaches through addressing the underlying factors that are causing them to occur in the first place.
However, to achieve this outcome a bit of brain power is required. For example changing a lifetime of poor postural habits requires a structured and methodical approach. As such it is best to have a thorough understanding as to why this is happening in the first place so that the home exercise program that your PhysioLogix physiotherapist will provide you with makes sense.
Cervical headaches are also known as cervicogenic headaches. They are caused by dysfunction of the neck musculature and/or neck joints as mentioned above. The most common outcome of this dysfunction is an irritation of the sensory nerves that exit the neck (diagram 1) which then refer pain as a headache. Just to make things a bit more complicated headaches can also be caused by trigger points located in the neck muscles such as you upper trapezius, scalenes and sub-occpitial muscles.
Symptoms to look for if you think you might have a cervicogenic headache include;
- Pain on one or both sides of the neck
- Constant dull ache
- Headache referral to the temples, above the eyes or behind the eyes
- Tension at the base of the skull
- Headache made worse with head movement or sustained sitting/standing
- Dizziness or feeling light headed
Physiotherapy management differs from other health professionals because it isn't just about getting a quick fix with cracking your neck and sending you on your way. Your physiotherapist will assess if the headache is related to stiff joints, poor posture or trigger points located in your muscles and provide symptomatic relief through addressing these areas via soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation and potentially dry needling. Long term success is achieved through your PhysioLogix physiotherapist providing you with a home exercise program that will aim to improve muscle length of the neck musculature, correcting posture and strengthening the postural muscles of your neck and potentially your lower back as well (it is all interlinked), developing strategies for stress management and optimising your workplace setup to facilitate correct posture.
As with most things related to the body - it is always best to get things looked at and fixed early on rather than waiting for months before coming to physiotherapy.
As always if you feel like you would like to know more or have questions feel free to come into the PhysioLogix physiotherapy clinic as we're always happy to have a chat.