Headache – When can we help?

There are many causes of headache and we are often asked if physio can help.

There are 3 primary types of headache

  • Tension Type Headache
  • Migraine
  • Cervicogenic (or neck related) Headache

It is this third type that physiotherapy has the greatest role in treating although there is often a role we can play in the management of the other types.

It can be difficult to differentiate between headaches as some present with all 3 types.  Your physiotherapist will ask you many questions and perform a thorough assessment of your neck, shoulders and upper back.  We are well placed to provide current information and treatment strategies regarding all headache types and will work closely with your GP or neurologist if we decide that a referral is needed.

Neck related headaches come secondary to a disorder in one of the top 3 joints in the neck. The headache is felt on the same side and does not swap sides.

Neck related headaches are mild to moderate in intensity, the pain begins in the neck and spreads to a headache.

Our Physiotherapists are skilled in alleviating these headaches and helping restore function in the joints. Treatment includes gentle manual therapy and they will also assess and treat any secondary issues that are causing the dysfunction such as posture or muscle weakness.

Research on neck related headaches shows treatment by a physiotherapist with gentle manual therapy and a specific neck exercise is more effective than medication.

If you have an excruciating pain in the head, or if it is your first or worst headache, you should always consult your GP or attend the nearest ED to rule out any serious condition. You should also consult your GP if the headaches are ongoing or associated with dizziness, disorientation, difficulty speaking, swallowing, falls, nausea, numbness or nystagmus (where the eyes move rapidly and uncontrollably).