Treating Headaches With Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy can help treat headaches

When treating a headache most people will reach for pain killers. Traditional headache pain relief typically comes from paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen. However, persistent headaches or chronic head pain may require an alternative treatment. Many people are turning to therapies that will complement, or even replace, conventional treatments for their headache. Physiotherapy is one such therapy that can help with headaches.

Physiotherapy uses a number of physical and electrical techniques to treat injury or disease and improve quality of life. Physiotherapy aims to restore the body to a normal functioning state by employing techniques such as massage, manipulation, mobilisation, heat and hydrotherapy. Headaches are a complex type of pain and there is evidence that a high percentage of headaches are due to problems in the neck structure. Physiotherapy can help solve these problems and put a stop to the associated headaches.

Using physiotherapy to treat headaches & migraines

The common headache that responds well with physiotherapy is known as a cervicogenic headache. This headache develops from pressure or damage to the neck or spine. Cervicogenic headaches can be caused by incorrect posture, a whiplash injury or from certain diseases. Headaches that begin from the neck are also types of pain that physiotherapy can help with. Tension usually starts at the top of the neck and then spreads upwards to the back of the head. The headache can then develop at the temples or forehead and even behind the eyes. Migraines and tension headaches benefit from physiotherapy because relieving tension in the muscles is usually key to treating the pain.

There are general symptoms that might suggest a headache stems from a neck problem. The headache may be made worse by neck movement or remaining in one position for long periods (such as sitting at a desk). Headaches that are worse on just one side of the head and headaches that are eased by placing pressure on the base of the skull suggest a neck related problem. A physiotherapist can determine if your neck is the cause or contributing factor to your headache.

Curing headaches & migraines with physiotherapy

After determining the cause of your headache, a physiotherapist will use a number of techniques and methods to treat the problem. Physiotherapy uses mobilisation and manipulation of the joints and muscles in the neck. The physiotherapist will suggest exercises that will help with muscle function and rehabilitation and they will also give advice on correcting posture. This advice may include adjusting your work station or altering furniture at home. Ergonomic changes to your environment can have a major impact on your physical well-being.

The physiotherapist may also employ ultrasound or electrotherapy to ease muscle tension. Another effective physiotherapy treatment that may be used to treat headache pain is hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy involves the use of water to ease pain. A common hydrotherapy method for headaches utilises hot and cold water. Placing your feet in a hot water bath and then putting an ice pack or cold cloth on the head where the pain is most intense stimulates circulation and eases tension in the muscles.

Physiotherapy uses a variety of methods that are non-invasive and can be free of the side-effects that are associated with drugs (nausea, drowsiness and constipation). Finding an accredited physiotherapist to help treat the cause of your headaches can be the first step in overcoming chronic headache pain that is caused by poor posture or conditions affecting the neck.

Article Submitted By
Daniel Alexander
GoToSee Journalist

Date Published
04/08/08


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