Physiotherapy, Chiropractic Care, and Massage Therapy Can Help You Head Away From Chronic Headaches
The phrase “I have a sick headache” might have been coined to describe exactly how you feel today — or every day.
A one-off headache encounter can be distressing enough, but frequent or constant headache pain can completely disable you. Did you know that 30% of people across Canada endure occasional or frequent headaches? So you are not alone. In fact, headaches are the third most commonly reported source of pain across the world.
Many of these headaches have underlying musculoskeletal or biochemical causes — which means that they can be corrected through the right forms of treatment. In many cases, physiotherapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy, or any combination of these may turn out to be just what the doctor ordered for a chronic headache.
Anatomy of a Headache: Understanding the Underlying Causes
What is a headache, beyond the simple definition of a pain in the head? There are actually several categories of headaches, each with its own distinct causes and symptoms.
For most sufferers, chronic headaches mean tension headaches. A tension headache can be triggered or aggravated by emotional tension. But the actual mechanism involves physical tension in the muscles of the neck, due to repetitive motions or sustained postures, that results in muscular spasms. These spasms result in the tugging of a membrane in your spine, called the dura mater, which ultimately send pain signals to your brain. The headache is felt as a a vaguely pounding or aching sensation.
Weak or underdeveloped neck muscles may be naturally vulnerable to tightness and spasms. Likewise, trauma to the area (ex. whiplash) can cause injury to the neck muscles, or it can result on abnormal stresses to otherwise normal tissues (ex. imagine pulling and holding your finger back). A headache that specifically involves the upper cervical spine is termed a cervicogenic headache. Even routine postural stresses can cause neck strain and tension headaches, if the mechanical stress of that position exceeds the capacity of your tissues to sustain it. For instance, if you stare down at your smartphone for hours each day, and your body is not adept to maintain that position for so long, then you can develop a painful problem known as “text neck”, which may also manifest as a headache.
Other kinds of headaches, while less common, can prove even more debilitating. Cluster headaches are a prime example. These intense headaches strike one side of your face in clusters of attacks. These headaches have been associated with cervical spinal abnormalities.
Migraines are even more notorious for causing nausea, light/sound sensitivity, faintness and vision problems on top of brutal headaches. Migraines sometimes occur as a complication of concussions; they are also triggered by exposure to specific stimuli such as lights, sounds, or foods.
How Our Therapists Can Reduce Your Discomfort
Our physiotherapists, chiropractor, and massage therapists can help you get to the bottom of your headache problem. If your headache is cervinogenic in nature, we may need to work on your neck. For instance:
- Exercises that relax and strengthen your neck muscles can help to ease the stresses that set off your headaches.
- Chiropractic adjustments can correct the abnormal stresses placed on your neck structures that result in neck pain or headaches.
- Massage therapy can both relax tight neck tissues and speed recovery to injured muscles.
- Corrective exercises and postural/ergonomic changes can help you steer clear of occupational headache triggers.
- If your migraines are the result of a recent concussion, a carefully-administered physiotherapy or chiropractic program of care can actually help you recuperate from that concussion more quickly.
- Our therapists can help you identify other migraine triggers and suggest strategies for avoiding them in your everyday life.
Ready to Overcome Headache Pain? Give Leaps and Bounds Performance Rehabilitation a Try
You’re not doomed to go through life plagued by frequent headaches. If you’re ready to free yourself from this burden, give us a try. Contact us today to learn more about our headache treatment options!