Pierre Joubert/Physiotherapist/ Physio on Ross

Headaches: What are they?

Headaches are very common and it is important to understand that there are different types. The most common type of headache is the tension-type which accounts for 80-90% of headaches experienced by a person.

The second most common type of headache is a migraine. Around 20% of the population experiences this type of headache in their lives. Unilateral migraines are more common and most people report that their headaches start from a trigger that they noticed (sound or light sensitive etc.).

The worse painful headache is the cluster headache. The headache appears in cycles and can last from hours to days. They start with a sudden onset and gets worse very quickly. They are very scarce and are only experienced by less than 1% of the population.

Cervicogenic headaches are characterised by chronic hemi-cranial (one sided) pain referred to the head from either the cervical spine or soft tissue (muscles) within the neck. Cervicogenic headaches have been estimated to affect 14-18% of the population. The classification of chronic headaches are headaches that occurs more than 15 times per month or if it lasts over a long period.

Common Symptoms of cervicogenic headaches:

  • Pain localized in the neck and back of head. It can spread to other areas and is usually one sided
  • Pain is elicited by certain neck movements or sustained postures
  • Increase in neck muscle stiffness
  • Abnormal tenderness in the neck

Evidence shows that the presence of headaches has a big effect on the lives of people. The majority of people experiencing headaches have shown to have a reduction in their social activities, as well as in their work capacity. Productivity in work places is lost. Some health-care professionals still perceive headaches as a minor complaint and therefore these disorders aren’t seen as important resulting in poor treatment.

What can physiotherapy do to help?

The physiotherapist will assess your cervical range of movement, posture, the neck and the surrounding soft tissue and the activation and strength of neck muscle stabilizers. The assessment may even include your thoracic and lumbar spine as these joint may also be involved. These would help to determine what the cause of the headaches is.

Evidence has shown that physiotherapy is very effective for relieving cervicogenic headaches.

Physiotherapy treatment may include but is not limited by:

  • Postural corrections
  • Soft-tissue therapies (massage, heat therapy, TENS and stretching)
  • Joint mobilisations
  • Neck stabilizer retraining
  • Relaxation, and headache education
  • Acupuncture / Dry Needling

Initial self-treatment may include ice or a hot pack which can often provide good pain relief. If you suffer from headaches it would be advised to get yourself booked in to see one of our physiotherapists at Physio on Ross so that a full assessment can be made and the correct treatment or appropriate referral can be provided.  Remember we do not require a GP referral so call us today on (07) 4728 2116.