Headaches are incredibly common in the adult population and are often put down to a range of causes but in reality, around 80% of them are from your neck – and can be resolved.
Far too many people put up with headaches and migraines and think of them as a normal thing but for a lot of you, that shouldn’t be the case. So if you are someone that puts up with headaches, read on to learn what causes them, how to know if physio can help resolve it and what treatment involves.
Over 90% of the population has had a headache in their lifetime and the stats show 63% of men and 86% of women have had a “tension-type” headache in the last year.(3)
Unfortunately, with something being so common, it almost becomes the norm – which is so unnecessary.
What causes headaches
Head pain is generally divided into two categories – Headaches and Migraines. There is also a third classification used often in the past called vascular headaches but this has largely been ruled out as a cause. It is now coming to light that headaches and migraines may not actually be separate issues but rather varying degrees of the same entity. The major cause of headaches is now thought to be dysfunction of one or more of the upper neck vertebrae with sensitization of the brainstem – namely the Trigeminocervical Nucleus.(2) Often in the past headaches have been put down to muscle tension and described as tension-type headaches but it is very rarely just the muscles causing the issue.
Some great research done by Dean Watson of the Watson headache approach has helped show this. (1)
How does this cause head pain?
Dysfunction of either your upper neck joints, neck muscles or nerves, which trigger pain signals that travel to your trigeminal nucleus in your brainstem, where you interpret the pain signals as a headache.
The most common neck joints involved are your:
Atlanto-occipital joint (O-C1),
Atlanto-axial joint (C1/2), and
C2/3 cervical spine joints.
How do know if physio can help resolve my headache?
As mentioned earlier, 80% of headaches and migraines are due to dysfunction at the top three vertebrae in your neck
What does physio treatment for headaches involve
Physio treatment aims to cover these steps to resolve headaches and migraines:
First of all, confirm that the neck is the source through testing
Find other contributing factors such as mobility in the lumbar, thoracic or cervical spine
Ease the pain through manual therapy addressing the upper neck
Finally to begin improving the mobility and importantly strength and endurance of the core muscles of your neck through effective, proven, evidence-based home exercises.
Often a large proportion of peoples headaches are resolved within 4-6 treatments sessions and then it is up to you to follow advice and self-management exercises to keep them away!
If you are sick of putting up with headaches, book in to see Shaun or one of the team for a thorough initial assessment and say goodbye to head pain.