What is a headache?
Headaches are defined as pain in any region of the head. The three most common types are tension headaches, migraines and cervicogenic headaches. Cervicogenic headaches, sometimes known as “neck headaches” are related to a dysfunction in one or all of the top four joints in the neck. They are generally one sided and radiate from the base of the skull upwards. They often last for over an hour and are always associated with neck pain. Cervicogenic headaches are moderate in nature and may also be felt in other regions of the head or face. Many people do not know that physiotherapists can help with cervicogenic headaches!
What causes a cervicogenic headache and how do I know that I have one?
The most distinguishing characteristic of a cervicogenic headache is neck pain that then spreads up into the head. Movements of the neck are often stiff and elicit an increase in pain in the head. Prolonged sitting postures can place an increased strain on the upper neck joints resulting in irritation and thus a headache. These postures can also develop painful trigger points that can further induce pain. The upper joints of the neck can also be injured due to trauma such as a car accident or sporting injury.
How does physiotherapy help?
At Perth Physiotherapy and Pilates we are holistic in the treatment of cervicogenic headaches, using a combination of the following treatment methods:
Manual therapy: A combination of soft tissue release, cervical joint mobilisation and dry needling can help to ease cervicogenic headaches by reducing stiffness and pain in the neck.
Exercise: As mentioned above, cervicogenic headaches are the result of dysfunction in the neck. Therefore, the exercises we prescribe are designed to help reduce pain, improve postural habits, lengthen tight muscles and strengthen the muscles surrounding the neck.
Education and advise: Based on our assessments of your neck disorder we will develop strategies and lifestyle changes to help reduce the load and aggravation of your upper neck joints. This may include postural changes as well as correction of poor lifting techniques.
Self-management: Once you are feeling relief from your headaches your physiotherapist will work with you to create a program of basic exercises and strategies to help reduce and prevent your headaches.
How long will it take before I feel better?
This is a question we often get asked! But unfortunately as everyone is different, there is no clear cut answer! Compliance with physiotherapy can result in relief within 2-6 weeks depending on the extent and nature of the neck disorder.
If you are struggling with headaches please see your physiotherapist to begin your treatment. Click here to see our availabilities.