Very few of us go through life without getting headaches and for some, they can become so bad that they are the ruling factor in our lives. We can’t do the things we want, eat the food we enjoy and drink the drinks we like because they may bring on a headache. But can a physiotherapist help deal with the problem?
For many generations, the headache was somewhat overlooked as a chronic condition. It was ‘just’ a headache and it went away at some point. But now experts believe there could be as many as 300 different causes of headaches and these range from something we ate to really serious medical conditions such as meningitis, aneurysm or a brain tumour.
Luckily, these extreme conditions make up only a small percentage of the causes of headaches and for most people, a physiotherapist can be the first step towards finding the cause and dealing with it. The first step in the process is identifying what type of headache you suffer with.
As a rule, there are three general categories of headache. There are neck headaches that are also known as cervicogenic headaches, tension type headaches and migraines. But these categories overlap and can be influenced by other sources.
So for example, a pain in the neck (a physical one rather than your other half!) can cause tension in the muscles, increasing blood pressure. As a throbbing type of headache is generally classed as a migraine, you would be suffering from all three categories at once – confusing, right?
Getting To Grips with Headaches
As you can see, getting to grips with headaches isn’t an easy thing – they are a complicated condition that can be influenced by a number of factors on their own or working together. And dealing with the headache relies on a good understanding of what causes the pain. In fact, the list of common causes of headaches is as varied as the type of headaches themselves. They range from joint pain to muscle strain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, pinched nerve, spondylosis and even whiplash.
The first thing your physiotherapist may do is get you to answer a series of questions to understand and categorise the headache. This may involve looking at other medical conditions you have that may not seem related, as well as physical conditions and lifestyle questions.
Depending on what they find out from their research, there are a number of options they may then recommend. These can range from posture correction, avoiding the causes of headaches or acupuncture. TENS machines, yoga, as well as strength and stretching exercises may sound more like something used to treat a physical injury but can also help with headaches, depending on the root cause.
Many of us live with intermittent headaches when we don’t need to and a trip to the physio can be the first step in living life without them. However there are also some warning signs that if they occur, should result in an immediate doctor’s trip. These include a new or different type of headache to normal, getting the worst headache you have ever had, memory loss or physical weakness as well as systemic symptoms such as losing weight or a fever. As with any condition, it is better to be safe than sorry.