Headaches affect approximately two-thirds of the population. They are frequently cause by joint or muscular dysfunction in the neck, poor posture, stress or increased tension. Physiotherapy can assist in the management of headaches and migraines by addressing musculoskeletal dysfunction in your neck, upper back and shoulders.
What is a cervical headache?
These are headaches that originate in the neck and are frequently treated successfully by Physiotherapy.
Cervical Headache may present with the following symptoms:
- Pain and tension in the neck
- Pain, ache and pressure in the forehead and back of head
- Tension in the temple and jaw area
- Pain or headache that is made worse with movement of the neck
- Pain on the same side of the head as neck pain
- Light-headedness or dizziness associated with sustained positions or movement of the neck
Physiotherapy Management of a Cervical headache
A dysfunction of the upper neck joints or muscles can refer pain to the head. Several nerves supplying the neck share nerve connections with nerves supplying the head.
The dysfunction can arise from poor posture, previous neck injury or degenerative/ arthritic causes. It can also be due to jaw dysfunction (poor jaw movement patterns, grinding and jaw injury) or stress/anxiety (increase muscle tension and sensitisation of the nervous system).
Physiotherapy management may involve the following treatments dependent on the findings of your individual assessment:
- Identifying the contributions of neck disorders/dysfunction to the pathophysiology of headache.
- Joint mobilisations
– Stiff or unstable upper neck and jaw joints are common causes of headaches.
- Core neck muscle re-training
-Scientific studies have demonstrated that a significant number of cervical headache sufferers also have weakness in the deep stabilizing muscles of the neck and trunk. Imbalances of the larger muscles are also common.
- Massage/soft tissue mobilisation
-The release of tension or trigger points in muscles is very successful in treating cervical headaches.
- Correction of muscle imbalances
- Posture advice and correction exercises
- Ultrasound, Electrotherapy and Heat
- Dry Needling
- Ergonomic Assessment & Correction
-The use of a poor chair, desk or badly placed computer may result in poor posture which places strain on the neck. Your physiotherapist can advise on office set-up, bed and pillows.
- Visualisation & Relaxation Training
-To decrease and manage tension, a factor that may precipitate a headache.