It’s all in your head
According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that at almost half of the adult population has had at least one headache in the past year. At least 30% of those affected by headaches report having a migraine. Headaches can be debilitating, leading to lost days at work and with family. As people search for answers, they often find themselves in physical therapy. But why?
Here at Back At Work Physical Therapy, our highly trained physical therapists are skilled at recognizing when your headache is treatable through exercise and manual therapy. Often, patients think that reaching for the ibuprofen is the only answer; however, tension-type headaches or cervicogenic headaches, characterized by pain that starts at the base of the skull, muscle pain, and tightness, can actually be successfully treated with exercise, manual therapy, and activity modification. Our physical therapists will perform a thorough history and evaluate your neck, jaw, and upper back to understand the root cause of your symptoms and plan your treatment.
The WHO has identified several different types of headaches:
- Migraine: moderate to severe headache with nausea, light sensitivity, and pulsating quality.
- Tension-type Headaches: pressure or tightness, band around the head, originating from the neck
- Cluster Headaches: brief but severe headache, usually around one eye, with tearing and redness of the eye
- Medication Overuse Headache: caused by overuse of medication to treat headache; oppressive, persistent, and worst on waking
When can a physical therapist help me?
- You are experiencing headaches with increased muscle tension or stiff neck
- You have noticed that your headaches change when you move your neck
- You notice yourself rubbing your temples or massaging your neck to relieve your headache
- You have increased tension or pain in your jaw, or you notice that you are clenching your teeth
- You notice your headaches more at the end of the day after you have been sitting in front of a desk or computer
If your headache tends to creep up your neck throughout the day at work and come with jaw tightness, increased neck stiffness and pain, and tension throughout your shoulders, or you have noticed that your headaches are stress-related, physical therapy can help. Through manual therapy techniques such as mobilization, manipulation, and massage, your therapist will decrease pain and improve mobility. Your therapist will prescribe simple exercises to help you take control of your headache symptoms, and help you modify your workstation or aggravating activities to reduce the frequency and intensity of your headaches.