Can Osteopathy help treat headaches?

Osteopathy for headaches and migraines

The simple answer to whether osteopathy can help treat headaches is ‘yes’. Osteopathy is a highly effective treatment for headaches and migraines as tension in the muscles and bones are usually the cause of head pain. Tense muscles release chemicals that can trigger headaches. Nerves that are responsible for head pain are close to the nerves that start between the bones of the spine and neck – the areas of the body where osteopaths focus their treatment.

Osteopathy is a gentle and non-invasive alternative and complementary therapy that allows the body to function correctly. Using manual techniques to highlight areas of tension and blockages, an osteopath relieves constriction so the body can use its own natural ability to overcome illness or disease which in turn eases pain such as headaches and migraines.

Causes of headache and migraine pain

Headaches are a common complaint we all share. Thankfully for many of us they are short-lived but for some people head pain can be chronic and debilitating. Conventional medications can provide immediate relief but they also have unwanted side-effects (nausea, constipation etc). Osteopathy should be considered as an alternative and complementary option for headaches and migraines.

How a headache develops is complex and can involve various factors including tension in the muscles, migraines, sinus congestion, PMS, or in severe but rare cases, tumours or meningitis. Research has shown that around 90% of head pain cases are caused by muscle tension or migraines. The head has a number of pain sensitive parts including the scalp, muscles, arteries, sinus membranes, ear (external and middle) and teeth. We commonly think of the brain as being the cause of a headache but the brain in fact has very little sensitivity to pain.

Sinus headaches are due to the membranes swelling and blocking channels that run from the sinuses to the nose. Pressure builds up and squeezes together facial nerves that are highly sensitive. Infections and colds can cause sinus headaches and pain is felt on either side of the nose and between the eyes. Migraines are vascular headaches that typically begin with flashing lights or blurred vision and can include nausea, mood changes and sensitivity to sound and light. Symptoms are caused by blood vessels in the head constricting and later expanding excessively. Difficult to understand and predict, migraines can be triggered by certain foods or chemicals.

Tension headaches exist on both sides of the head and are triggered by stress or poor posture. Pain is felt as pressure on the front or back of the head which worsens throughout the day. Tension headaches are caused by muscles of the neck and scalp tightening.

How does osteopathy help with headaches?

As we know that the majority of headaches are caused by tension and poor posture, osteopathy is ideally placed to provide treatment and relief in these areas. Prolonged muscle tightness in the neck leads to the joints and nerves compressing which causes pain. Movement of fluids, particularly blood and lymph also become restricted. Poor circulation affects oxygen delivery to the brain and prevents waste product removal – this also creates pain and discomfort.

Osteopathy treatment uses massage to the muscles and manipulation to the joints of the neck and spine. By stretching out muscles and supporting ligaments, muscle spasms relax allowing better movement and drainage of bodily fluids. Osteopathy helps headache sufferers to find relief from their pain and restores bodily functions to help with natural healing.

Article submitted by
Daniel Alexander, GoToSee Journalist

Date published
06/09/08


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