I used to suffer from recurrent dull, achy headaches. At the time, I managed these headaches with regular ibuprofen and heat pack application. These defenses became my saving grace in the midst of a chaotic day that would take a turn for the worse when a headache began. The pain did subside using these measures, but ultimately it was temporary, as it wouldn’t be long before another headache interrupted my day. I had been managing to treat the symptoms of these headaches, but I was unaware of any long-term solution.
Then, I started to learn more about the neck and when I became a manual physiotherapist. On course, I was assessed by a colleague and I found out that I was experiencing what is known as a “ cervicogenic headache”; meaning my neck was the source of this pain. The upper three segments of my spine- right at the base of my skull- consisting of muscles, joints, ligaments, and connective tissue were not moving correctly, and as a result, these structures were irritated and referring pain to my head. This stiffness was most likely due to a whiplash injury I sustained while snowboarding a few years prior. Important stabilizing muscles had become weaker and fatigued sooner.
Luckily, physiotherapy did provide me with some solutions. Hands-on treatment of these spinal segments, and some specific strengthening exercises significantly reduced my headaches. Today, it is rare that I experience a headache. I continue to strengthen my neck and am mindful of my posture daily. Every once and awhile, I can feel some of the stiffness returning, and I get a physiotherapist to mobilize or manipulate the joint as needed.
Now, as a practicing physiotherapist, I am well aware that there is things that can be done to prevent and effectively treat a variety of headaches, including the cervicogenic headache and the common tension headache. These can include, joint mobilization or manipulation, soft tissue release, stretching, strengthening, postural education and pain relieving modalities including acupuncture.
So, if you are suffering recurrent headaches like I was, you don’t have to just live with them. Have your neck assessed by a manual physiotherapist, and see if they can make your headaches be a thing of the past. All of the physiotherapists at Rebalance Sports Medicine are trained in manual therapy.