Headaches can range from annoying to debilitating. There are many classifications of headaches and a large number of triggers. Historically, you would have been advised to avoid foods and/or activities that trigger your headache and take medication to relieve symptoms. However, recent research suggests that a significant number of headaches are as a result of musculoskeletal dysfunction in the neck. The good news is that your Physiotherapist can offer relief from the symptoms of headache and migraine, even if you have suffered for years.
It is important to remember that some headaches can be a sign of a serious illness. If you suddenly start experiencing headaches, when you haven’t previously or your headache is associated with symptoms such as
blurred vision, dizziness, difficulty breathing or swallowing then please see your Doctor immediately. If you start to experience headache or migraine symptoms following a lumbar puncture or as a result of starting a new medication then you should also consult your Doctor.
Tension Headaches can be caused by stress, long work hours, depression, eye strain (frowning or squinting), and are more common in females than males. Jaw clenching or grinding your teeth at night may give you TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) pain as well as headaches on one or both sides of the head. Neck and shoulder posture can also put strain on the neck. Tension headaches can be constant or intermittent and often occur at the end of the week or month.
Menstrual headaches are thought to be associated with the reduction in the hormone oestrogen prior to menstruation and the subsequent change in blood vessel diameter. As a result, menstrual headaches can sometimes respond to contraceptive or hormone medication.
Classic migraines are usually preceded by an aura, which may appear as a halo around objects, specs in the field of vision, loss of a portion of the visual field, watering eyes, ringing in the ears, to name a few. These headaches occur more frequently in women. An episode is usually preceded by large change in mood being either positive or negative the day or night prior to the headache.
Often the pain is felt at the front and/or back of the head and usually isolated to one side. Migraine suffers can become nauseated and vomit as well as being sensitive to light (photosensitive). As a result, they will often prefer a dark room.
Common migraines often occur without warning and don’t have all of the symptoms associated with classic migraines. As a result, they are more difficult to diagnose. Common migraines can be trigged by any number of factors including alcohol, MSG, tyramines (found in tomatoes, chocolate, red wine, orange juice, aged cheese), too much or too little sleep and nitrites (found in preserved meats). Where possible, it is good to identify the trigger(s) and reduce consumption.
Common migraine suffers will often experience sensitivity to light and sound and can feel washed out after an episode.
The Trigeminal Nerve is the main sensory nerve of the jaw, face and forehead. The term neuralgia means pain in the distribution of a nerve. Thus, Trigeminal neuralgia involves painful spasms in the jaw, face and forehead. Trigeminal neuralgia is more common in people over the age of 30 and can be linked to TMJ pathology or uneven bite, but may also be due to a tooth infection or scarring post shingles.
How Physiotherapy Can Help
There is research to suggest that most headaches have a cervicogenic (neck) component. It is believed that dysfunction in the upper cervical spine results in sensitisation of the Trigemmino-Cervical nucleus, located in the brain stem. The result of this sensitisation is that the nucleus interprets otherwise normal stimuli as noxious which subsequently results in pain in the head. The good news is that with detailed assessment of your cervical spine, your physiotherapist can determine the level at which the musculoskeletal dysfunction is occurring and develop a treatment plan to correct that dysfunction. Treatment may include mobilisation, soft tissue massage, dry needling and postural exercises.
For advice about the physiotherapy management of headaches in Cannington, Queens Park, East Cannington, Roleystone, Forrestfield and Bentley or to make an appointment contact Carousel Physiotherapy today.