Did You Know Physical Therapy Can Fix Your Headaches?
Headaches are No Fun
Have you ever experienced a headache? Do you seem to experience them more often than you would like? Has it started to affect your daily routine and your mood? Do you find yourself taking over the counter medications such as Tylenol, Ibuprofin, or Aspirin to try and resolve your headaches? Have you seen a doctor and been given coping techniques, but they don’t seem to be working?
More than 45 million Americans complain of headaches and dizziness each year and you may be one of them. Headaches can be debilitating. They can make it difficult to concentrate, affecting your work, your sleep, your mood, and your lifestyle. Many people “live” with these headaches. They have short term solutions, like over the counter medication in place. However, they are still left without answers about how to fully resolve their headaches.
If left untreated, chronic headaches may lead to other issues, too. These include the following:
What Types of Headaches Are There?
The most common types of headaches which affect 80–90% of the population are called Tension-Type Headache (TTH) or Cervicogenic Headaches. These headaches can be episodic or chronic in nature with mild to significant disabling pain. They are associated with a constant ache or pressure around both sides of the head, neck, or temples. They originate from tension or stress in the muscles of your head, neck, jaw, and shoulders. The tension in these muscles increases pressure on the nerves to your face and head which can trigger a headache.
The headache is a referred pain from musculoskeletal dysfunction, which means that fixing the “problem” (tension in your neck, posture, cervical stiffness, etc.) can alleviate the headache. Examples of exercises that help improve balance, posture and cervical issues are often recommended for geriatric patients – but they’re useful for everyone else, too.
If you do not address the cause of the problem, your headache will “rebound” or re-occur and continue to negatively affect your daily lifestyle. Headaches often lead to increased pain levels, discomfort, and the need for pain management via physical therapy.
Physical Therapy For Headache Pain Management
What most people don’t know is that the safest and most effective form of treatment for Tension-Type Headaches and Cervicogenic Headaches is PHYSICAL THERAPY.
You no longer need a doctor’s prescription to book your physical therapy appointment and can start receiving treatment on-demand as soon as you decide you need it. There’s no more waiting until your condition is worse, or hoping your doctor prescribes physical therapy. You can be proactive with your treatment as soon as you want to.
Physical therapy specialists help by performing a comprehensive musculoskeletal exam to determine which structures are contributing to your symptoms.
The exam includes an assessment of:
- ROM of the head/neck
- Joint mobility of your cervical spine especially the upper cervical segments (C1, C2)
- Musculature tightness and trigger points in your head, neck, shoulders, chest.
- Strength and endurance of the deep cervical neck flexors and axioscapular muscles
- Sitting posture, standing posture and sleeping position (great for patients living with MS)
Based on the results of your examination your physical therapist will find the CAUSE of your headaches. From there, they address those deficits to alleviate your symptoms.
Physical Therapy treatment may include:
- Electrical stimulation and heat: to warm up your tissue and relax your muscles
- Manual techniques such as:
- Hands-on mobilization/movement of your stiff cervical segments
- Soft tissue massage techniques to alleviate muscle tension and trigger points (ideal for diabetes patients)
- Stretching techniques to increase the mobility of shortened and tightened muscles
- Dry needling which uses a needle to alleviate myofascial trigger points
- Muscle Energy Techniques (MET) that use the muscles own energy in the form of gentle contractions to relax tonic muscles by activating the opposing muscle which in turn lengthens the tight muscle tissue
- Therapeutic exercise program: to activate and strengthen weak muscles in all areas of the body (arms, lets, rotator cuff, back)
- Postural education and body mechanic awareness: on how to sit, stand, and move correctly to place your bones and muscles in optimal alignment.
- Proper breathing techniques: to re-learn how to breathe correctly through your diaphragm instead of your accessory muscles.
After a few sessions of physical therapy, you should be combating the cause of your headaches instead of masking the symptoms, leaving you happy, focused and headache free.
Where to Seek Physical Therapy Treatment
You might think that finding physical therapy treatment is difficult, but it’s actually very simple. The BetterPT clinic location tool or the mobile app are great ways to find and connect with trained and capable physical therapists near you. These professionals provide services in their clinics or out. Options for treatment include traditional physical therapy, home visits, or even virtual ones utilizing the BetterTelehealth platform. Learn more about your options today!
Physical therapy has the potential to prevent and treat serious injuries and symptoms. Whether you’re a geriatric physical therapy patient or a young, fit athlete, headaches put serious kinks in your plans. Don’t let this happen!