What is a Headache?
A headache is a medical condition that can present aching, pain or throbbing in different parts of your head and behind your eyes. It can be a result of:
- Food sensitives
- A symptom from another disease
- Pain in the neck, jaw or the teeth
Headaches can be related to:
- Blurred visions
- Difficulty speaking and swallowing
- Feeling faint
The most common headache is a tension-type headache, which is followed by rebound headache, migraine, infection, neck or jaw-related headaches. A migraine may be a hereditary disorder associated with nerve activation. Secondary headaches have a medical cause with are involved with neck muscles, joints or nerves, the jaw, infections, etc.
How do I know I have a headache?
If you have a headache it is possible you may deal with the following symptoms:
- an aching sensation
- blurred vision, pins and needles or numbness in your face or legs
- pain in the head
- pain or aching behind the eye
- the worst pain in your head.
It is recommended that you talk to your GP to diagnose your headache before seeing a physiotherapist. If your headache is getting worse you should consult with your GP.
How can physiotherapy help with headaches?
- Postural ergonomics – Your physiotherapist can help you adjust ergonomics at your work and home to assist you with your recovery. It is important for you to do this to improve your condition. Symptoms can be heightened while working with smaller technology such as a laptop or iPad.
- Mobilisation – Gentle mobilisation of the spinal joints and spinal or jaw muscles can help with headache treatment.
- Dry needling or acupuncture – Dry needling or acupuncture can reduce the intensity of the symptom.
- Botox injections – has been proven to be effective in reducing pain
- Low-level laser therapy – This may help people with chronic neck pain suffers and can reduce pain immediately after treatment and up to 22 weeks after completion of treatment.
- Feldenkrais therapy – A therapy technique that improves postural awareness.
- Stress management
How effective is physiotherapy for a headache?
Mobilisation or exercises
Your physiotherapist will be able to help minimise the intensity of migraines associated with neck and jaw pain. They may recommend pain treatments and rehabilitation exercises.
Your Physiotherapist can recommend ergonomic strategies for sitting and different positions for long term improvement. The spinal taping program may also be used to improve your spinal biomechanics and posture. Dry needling and acupuncture may be used to help relieve headaches and neck pain.
What can I do at home?
You should consult with your GP to ensure your headache does not need further investigation. If your headache is associated with neck, jaw, spine or posture related your physiotherapist will be able to help you with at-home management program.
At home strategies could include the following strategies although may be limited depending on the situation of the person:
- Application of gentle pressure on temples, top of neck and top of shoulders for 30 seconds times three per day
- Application of the Cefaly TENS unit – See a physiotherapist
- Avoiding prolonged bending of the neck while completely everyday activities
- Avoiding prolonged neck extension by looking up
- Exercise completing 30 minutes of walking per day
- If you have ice sensitivity you may apply a warm wheat pack on the back of your neck for 15 minutes once every four hours
- Modify activities that cause you headaches
- Neck exercises – See a physiotherapist
- Use cold therapy such as applying a wet towel or ice cubes in a plastic bag around your forehead for 15 minutes and repeat every 4 hours.
If you use a laptop or computer that causes headaches, try the following:
- Adjust your laptop etc. so that it is just below eye level. Your feet should be flat on the floor if they do not reach the floor use something to ensure they do.
- Ensure you get up every 20 minutes for 1 minute and after 1-hour walk about your home or office.
- Sit against the back of your chair and avoid slouching.
- You may need to be assessed for a sit-stand workstation if headaches are on-going.
How long until I feel better?
It is difficult to predict how long a headache will take to improve, this will depend on the individual person.
- A small migraine headache usually resolves within 24–72 hours.
- A chronic migraine or tension-type headache can be ongoing.
- Cluster headaches may occur for 10 minutes and then settle and come again every 20 minutes to one hour. This may be resolved within a few days, weeks or even months.
- A neck headache may be ongoing until the cause of the headache is improved.
If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.
Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, < https://australian.physio/>.