HEADACHES ARE SUCH A HEADACHE

by Tyler Hawk, DPT (January 2016)

Headaches are one of the most common reasons for visits to primary care physicians. They can range from a slight annoyance to completely debilitating pain restricting your ability to perform daily activities. The World Health (WHO) estimates that 47% of the adult population has headaches at least once within a year’s time. With such an overwhelming amount of people affected by headaches, this blog post will serve to shed some light on the different categories of headaches and how physical therapy can help manage them.

 

FIRST UP, WHAT ARE HEADACHES?

Pain of any type that occurs in the head is referred to as a headache. Headaches are classified as either primary or secondary. Primary headaches result when the headache problem is the disorder, while secondary headaches are more the result of secondary conditions such as stroke, infection, or head injury.

NEXT UP, BREAKING DOWN THE PAIN.

Primary headaches are categorized into 3 main types:

1) Cervicogenic Headache

  • Pain on one side of the neck or back of the head that travels up the head above the ears.

  • The pain pattern typically resembles a ram’s horn and is worsened with neck motions or sustained neck postures.

2) Tension Type Headache

  • Named because of their gripping ache felt in the head, neck, and jaw muscles.

3) Migraine Headache

  • Mostly described as throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, with a combination of nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or noise.

  • Migraines affect women almost 3 times more than men and most of the time there are also complaints of neck pain.

WHAT CAN PT DO FOR YOU?

A physical therapist will take you through an extensive physical examination to develop a unique treatment plan based on your headache type and associated symptoms. This treatment plan may include neck mobilization, strengthening, stretching, and postural education. Physical therapy treatment can do the following:

  • Reduce the amount of medication needed for headaches

  • Decrease pain levels

  • Decrease headache severity, frequency & duration

  • Increase neck range of motion.

Headaches can be such a pain in the neck! So consult your physical therapist to see if PT can relieve your pain!

Sources:

  • who.int

  • veteransmemorialhospital.com