There are a couple of things to know about headaches. The first is that headaches are a very common problem. In fact, 90% of Americans suffer from occasional headaches. In my experience, headaches can be one of the most disabling ailments that I treat. The difficult part about headaches is that there is no escaping a headache. They affect your ability to concentrate and they are often not dependent on position. You should also remember that there are several types of headaches and headache triggers. A tension headache is different from a sinus headache which is different from a migraine.
Some of the common headaches that do not have an orthopedic cause would be Sinus headaches, rebound headaches and migraines. Sinus headaches are characterized by pressure in your cheekbones, eyes and nose and are caused by infections or allergies. Rebound headaches happen every day and re-occur as soon as medication wears off and are caused by not taking medication as prescribed. Migraines headaches can be triggered by many things and often include sensitivity to light and nausea.
The headaches that are important to me are Cervicogenic headaches or headaches that come from your cervical spine. These headaches come from the top of your neck in the first few vertebrae and the associated musculature. Some of the common symptoms include tenderness/pain at the base of your skull that radiates forward, pain that is aggravated by sustained positions and stiffness or pain in the neck.
The exciting thing about cervicogenic headaches is that there are several ways to control them:
1: Avoid sitting for too long. If you are required to sit for long periods, get up and stand for 5 minutes every hour.
2: Avoid head forward positions. If your ears are in front of your shoulders then you are putting undue stress on your neck and muscles. As an experiment, jut your head as far forward as you can and notice the amount of tension at the base of your neck. This is exactly what you are doing to yourself if you are leaving your head forward for extended periods.
3: Pull your shoulder back and don’t slump. If your trunk is coming forward, then your head will follow suit. Just by pulling your shoulder blades together you are setting up your neck to be in a much better position.
4: Manage your stress. There are often physical manifestations from stress and this stress often presents in our neck musculature. Finding ways to manage your stress will decrease your headaches even if they are cervical headaches.
The good news from all of this information is that there are things that you can do if you suffer from headaches to minimize your symptoms. There are several postural cues to decrease stress to your neck. In addition to the postural considerations, modalities such as low level laser treatments and manual therapy can be used to decrease pain and improve mobility.
Contact us at Siskiyou Physical Therapy to help manage your headaches.