Headaches

There are a number of different kinds of headaches, each with their own causes, symptoms and treatments. Most headaches are temporary and not a major reason for concern. They are often relieved by physiotherapy or acupuncture, and self-care treatments such as rest and the application of heat. Common types of headaches include tension headache, migraine, and cervicogenic headache. There are a number of other types or causes of headaches that we won’t focus on here. However our physiotherapists are well trained in determining what kind of headache you may be experiencing, including identifying any ‘red flags’ within your symptoms that may require referral for further investigation.

Below is more detail on the three common types of headaches. Please get in touch if you would like to see one of our physiotherapists about your headache.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches. Pain and tightness are felt behind the eyes, at the front and/or back of the head and down the sides of the neck. It is usually dull and constant and can be triggered by holding your head in a prolonged position, physical or emotional stress, poor posture, eye strain, jaw clenching, lack of sleep or fatigue.

Muscles around the head and neck tighten and can cause a restriction in movement. Physiotherapy treatment can consist of techniques to loosen tightened muscles and joints, such as acupuncture, manual therapy, postural education and stretches for tightened muscles and joints. Reducing stress can also help.

Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches are secondary headaches where the cause of the pain is outside of the head, in this case the cervical spine (neck region). There are a number of pain sensitive structures in the cervical spine and occipital (back of the head) regions. Dysfunctions within this area can cause pain to refer to the head due to the close neural innervations.

Patients with cervicogenic headaches often present with reduced range of neck movement and worsening of their headache with movement or pressure applied to their neck. Cervicogenic headaches often occur on one side of the head and commonly occurs at the back of the head or may refer to the front of the head or behind the eye.

Treatment for cervicogenic headaches should target the cause of the neck pain. This may include massage, mobilisation, stretches and acupuncture.

Migraine headaches

Migraine headaches are intense throbbing headaches on one side of the head and can be associated with other symptoms including nausea, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound and vomiting. Some people may also experience an aura with their headaches. This can include visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or blind spots, tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg and difficulty speaking. Symptoms will often impair your ability to continue with your daily activity.

Causes of migraines are not fully understood, however they have been linked to changes in the blood flow to the head and brain. Migraines can be triggered by monthly hormonal changes in women, alcohol, food, stress, changes in sleep and intense physical exertion.

Medications combined with lifestyle changes may help in minimising the symptoms and frequency of migraines.

 

There are a number of different kinds of headaches, each with their own causes, symptoms and treatments. Most headaches are temporary and not a major reason for concern. They are often relieved by physiotherapy or acupuncture, and self-care treatments such as rest and the application of heat. Common types of headaches include tension headache, migraine, and cervicogenic headache. There are a number of other types or causes of headaches that we won’t focus on here. However our physiotherapists are well trained in determining what kind of headache you may be experiencing, including identifying any ‘red flags’ within your symptoms that may require referral for further investigation.

Below is more detail on the three common types of headaches. Please get in touch if you would like to see one of our physiotherapists about your headache.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches. Pain and tightness are felt behind the eyes, at the front and/or back of the head and down the sides of the neck. It is usually dull and constant and can be triggered by holding your head in a prolonged position, physical or emotional stress, poor posture, eye strain, jaw clenching, lack of sleep or fatigue.

Muscles around the head and neck tighten and can cause a restriction in movement. Physiotherapy treatment can consist of techniques to loosen tightened muscles and joints, such as acupuncture, manual therapy, postural education and stretches for tightened muscles and joints. Reducing stress can also help.

Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches are secondary headaches where the cause of the pain is outside of the head, in this case the cervical spine (neck region). There are a number of pain sensitive structures in the cervical spine and occipital (back of the head) regions. Dysfunctions within this area can cause pain to refer to the head due to the close neural innervations.

Patients with cervicogenic headaches often present with reduced range of neck movement and worsening of their headache with movement or pressure applied to their neck. Cervicogenic headaches often occur on one side of the head and commonly occurs at the back of the head or may refer to the front of the head or behind the eye.

Treatment for cervicogenic headaches should target the cause of the neck pain. This may include massage, mobilisation, stretches and acupuncture.

Migraine headaches

Migraine headaches are intense throbbing headaches on one side of the head and can be associated with other symptoms including nausea, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound and vomiting. Some people may also experience an aura with their headaches. This can include visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or blind spots, tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg and difficulty speaking. Symptoms will often impair your ability to continue with your daily activity.

Causes of migraines are not fully understood, however they have been linked to changes in the blood flow to the head and brain. Migraines can be triggered by monthly hormonal changes in women, alcohol, food, stress, changes in sleep and intense physical exertion.

Medications combined with lifestyle changes may help in minimising the symptoms and frequency of migraines.