Did You Know Physical Therapy Could Help With Headache Relief?
The term “sick headache” might have been coined to describe exactly how you feel today — and every day. A one-off headache encounter can be distressing enough, but frequent or constant headache pain can completely disable you.
Many of these headaches have underlying musculoskeletal or biochemical causes – which means that they can be corrected through the right forms of treatment. In many cases, physical therapy turns out to be just what the doctor ordered for chronic headaches.
Are you experiencing these symptoms?
Stress-related headaches can vary widely in severity, although they’re rarely as debilitating as migraines.
They tend to a generalized ache over a broad region of the head, as opposed to attacking a specific area such as the eye (a trademark of another type of headache called a cluster headache).
The tension that brings them on may stem from emotional stress (if that emotional stress creates chronic neck tightness), but it may also be caused by:
- Weak neck muscles that become fatigued easily
- “Text neck,” a strain disorder that occurs if you’re always drooping your head forward to look at your smartphone
- Repetitive motion or overuse from work or sports activities
- Secondary pain problems such as arthritis in the cervical spine
Stress-related headaches that bother you for more than 15 days out of the month for 3 months or more are considered a chronic pain condition.
Physical therapy and headache relief
Our physical therapist can help you get to the bottom of your headache problem.
If your headache is cervinogenic in nature, we may need to work on your neck. For instance:
- Our physical therapist can help you identify other migraine triggers and suggest strategies for avoiding them in your everyday life.
- If your migraines are the result of a recent concussion, a carefully-administered course of physical therapy can actually help you recuperate from that concussion more quickly.
- Corrective exercises and postural/ergonomic changes can help you steer clear of “text neck” and other occupational headache triggers.
- Laser therapy and massage therapy can both relax tight neck tissues and speed recovery to injured muscles.
- Chiropractic adjustment can correct skeletal misalignment issues that place your neck muscles under unnatural strain. These adjustments can also help to reduce cluster headache attacks.
- Exercises that strengthen and loosen your neck muscles can help to ease the stresses that set off your headaches.
What’s causing my persistent headaches?
What is a headache, beyond the simple definition of a pain in the head? There are actually several categories of headaches, each with its own distinct causes and symptoms.
For most sufferers, chronic headaches mean tension headaches. A tension headache can be triggered or aggravated by emotional tension, but the actual mechanism involves physical tension in the muscles of the neck.
Tight or strained neck muscles can go into spasm. When spasms overtake certain tiny muscles near the base of the skull, the resulting tugging action irritates a membrane called the dura mater. The dura mater then responds by flooding your head with a vaguely pounding or aching sensation.
Weak or underdeveloped neck muscles may be naturally vulnerable to tightness and spasms. Accident injuries (including whiplash) can push the skull off-center in relation to the neck, subjecting the neck muscles to abnormal stresses. (A headache that specifically involves the upper cervical spine is termed a cervinogenic headache.)
Even routine postural problems can cause neck strain and tension headaches. For instance, if you stare down at your smartphone for hours each day, you can develop a painful problem known as “text neck” which also promotes headaches.
Other kinds of headaches, while less common, can prove even more debilitating. Cluster headaches are a prime example. These intense headaches strike one side of your face in clusters of attacks. These headaches have been associated with cervical spinal abnormalities.
Migraines are even more notorious for causing nausea, light/sound sensitivity, faintness and vision problems on top of brutal headaches. Migraines sometimes occur as a complication of concussions; they are also triggered by exposure to specific stimuli such as lights, sounds, or foods.
Schedule a consultation with a physical therapist today
You’re not doomed to go through life plagued by frequent headaches. If you’re ready to free yourself from this burden, give physical therapy a try.
Contact Southern California Aquatic & Physical Therapy today to learn more about our headache treatment options!