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Keeping a Lid on Headaches

Approximately 47% of the global population experiences regular headaches, and for some people, they’re just a minor inconvenience, for others they can be utterly debilitating, with no option but to stay in a dark, quiet room for hours, and sometimes even days.

The trouble is that successfully diagnosing a headache gets complicated, because according to the International Headache Society (HIS) there are over 300 separate classifications of headaches and almost as many known triggers, which makes a headache almost as unique as an individual.

You can also simultaneously suffer one, two or more types of headache or a migraine at the same time, where one may cause another, or overlap with each other. These are known as mixed or multi-source headaches and make the process of diagnosing and treating these headaches a longer and more complicated process. For example, neck dysfunction can cause an increase in surrounding muscle spasm, restricting range of motion and increased pain and sensitivity. A side effect of headaches like this may include elevated blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, vomiting or light sensitivity. In this scenario, you could have a cervicogenic (neck) headache, with a tension headache as well as a migraine!

The most commonly diagnosed headaches are:

  • Migraines (12%)

  • Tension Type Headache (TTH) (75%)

  • Cervicogenic headache (caused by the neck) (18%)

  • Sinus headaches

If you only suffer from the occasional headache, this is often caused by lifestyle factors such as:

  • Dehydration

  • Stress

  • Alcohol

  • Caffeine

  • Some foods

  • Skipped meals

  • Lack of sleep

  • Posture

  • Muscular tension

  • Medications

  • High blood pressure

  • Infection

  • Hormonal influences

However, if you suffer from headaches more regularly, there is some good news, because two of the most common headaches, tension-type headaches (TTH) and cervicogenic headaches, which typically originate from muscles and joints in and around the neck, can be significantly improved, and even cured by manual therapy techniques, both in the short term, as well as the long term.

There is a significant body of research, as well as clinical evidence, showing that manual therapy, rehabilitation exercises as well as techniques such as trigger point dry needling are effective treatment for certain types of headache.

Manual, hands-on therapy such as manipulating or mobilising your neck, can be hugely beneficial in eliminating your headache; or at least reducing the intensity and duration of the headache.

Soft tissue work including trigger point therapy and massage, can be effective in relieving spasm in the head and neck muscles which may contribute to your headache. Massage has also been shown to help people cope better during headache episodes, reducing associated stress and anxiety.

Trigger Point Dry Needling has been shown to reduce muscle tightness and sensitivity in local tissues of the neck as well as the areas of the brain stem that can cause a number of debilitating symptoms associated with headaches and migraines. Reducing muscle tightness and sensitivitycould help with neck or cervicogenic headaches, as well as sinus headaches.

In addition, poor posture and repetitive movements in your daily life, have also been shown to increase the risk of experiencing headaches as they can cause muscle imbalances, muscle weakness as well as strain in the ligaments and soft tissues in the joints of your neck. In these cases corrective exercises to strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight muscles can be extremely effective.

We have some more downloadable resources and advice sheets on each specific headache type at the following link - HeadacheResources Download. If you would like to understand more about how we can help in the treatment and prevention of headaches, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly or Book and Appointment Online.

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