• Goodbye Headaches: Bulk up to help optimise headache treatment

  • Headaches can range from debilitating and life-ruling conditions to a regular annoyance but it is important to know that the majority of them can be improved with the right headache treatment.

    Too often, the only treatment option for headaches is to take medication, take the day off or try and avoid any triggers but would we do that for pain in any other area of our body? No (we shouldn’t anyway) in most cases we would work to find the origin or contributors to our pain and address them, whether it be shoulder pain due to overload and subsequent weakness, ankle pain due to stiffness that has developed etc etc – most things can be helped if we know where to look and then help our bodies adapt positively.

    Headaches and migraines are no different. Too often head pain gets classified as a primary headache such as a tension headache or migraine. A primary headache is a classification for when there is no known cause and that often gives people the idea that they are stuck with it as there is nothign to address. Fortunately, as more and more research is done, we are finding that many of those with primary headaches and caused by sensitisation in the area in the brainstem which helps process sensory information from out upper neck and cranial nerves. This is a massive thing for those with headaches and migraines as it means headache treatment can be really effective when aimed at the upper neck, in order to create change and alter the sensitization of the brainstem. As we decrease sensitization, it gets tougher and tougher for head pain to be triggered.

    This is how headache treatment is effective in addressing head pain with over 80% of migraine sufferers and those that respond report an 80% reduction in symptoms within 5 sessions, even if they had been suffering from migraine headaches for years(1). These improvements are attributed to the Watson headache approach of treatment, which our senior physio, Shaun, has trained under.

    Our approach here at physiosteps to any pain an injury is not to only ease pain and improve function but to make sure those improvements last. We do that by working to improve not just the subjective measures (how you feel) but also the objective measures such as strength and capacity as well as range of motion. This is so important as the stronger you are, the more mobile you are, the more you can handle and the more room for error you have.

    This means not just getting you feeling better but also improving your necks capacity to handle load and stress, leading to less overload over time and less or no pain. Just like your back, calf or shoulder, your neck can improve in strength, mobility and proprioception if challenged in the right way, progressively.

    As with most areas in our body, if we have had pain on and off for a long period, the muscles in that area typically get weaker, from either pain inhibitor (a bit like a dimmer switch in your brain) or through doing fewer activities which challenge the area. This is no different for headache and Migraine sufferers and various research (1,2) has demonstrated altered muscle performance in those with chronic/long term migraines.

    This is why it is so important when treating a patient with head pain that we not only accurately assess and treat the upper neck but also work on regaining normal muscle function and strength, This helps gain long term, lasting results by increasing capacity and decreasing sensitization, leading to less and less that can cause you grief!

    Conclusion: Not all headaches are due to neck pain or sensitisation of the brainstem but a high proportion can be effectively treated and improved with specific treatment and retraining of the upper neck.

    For more information, see THIS PAGE where you can download a PDF with more information or give the clinic a call to book in with Shaun for an initial headache consultation and get started with individualized treatment and rehab.