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Physical therapy for headaches

What is a headache?

Headaches are among the most common causes of physical discomfort – around 7 in 10 people experience at least one headache each year, and over 45 million Americans suffer from frequent or even disabling headaches. Despite their prevalence, headaches can be difficult to treat and prevent.

That’s because there are numerous types of headaches, and even more potential causes. Some headaches are symptoms of an overarching problem; others are both the symptom and the cause. The most common types of headache are migraines, tension headaches, cluster headaches, sinus headaches, and post-traumatic headaches.

All headaches are characterized by pain in the head, scalp, or neck. In some cases, patients may also experience sensitivity to light and sound, visual auras, loss of appetite, or mood swings. Depending on the cause and type, headaches can last anywhere from a few minutes to several days.

Source: Healthline

Headache symptoms

The symptoms of any given headache will vary from one type to the next. Tension headaches, which are most common among women, tend to cause stiffness in the neck and shoulders, dull and aching pain, scalp tenderness, and a sensation of pressure across the forehead.

Cluster headaches, on the other hand, cause intense, throbbing pain behind the eyes. Cluster headaches usually occur several hours after the patient falls asleep, and are often confused with migraines due to their intensity.

Migraines can be distinguished from cluster headaches by the symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Migraine symptoms also include pulsating sensations in the head, pain on only one side of the head, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can be so painful that patients may have difficulty even getting out of bed.

The most common symptoms of a headache include:

  • Pain in the head, and neck
  • Neck and shoulder stiffness
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Throbbing sensation in the forehead

Source: Healthline

What causes a headache?

All headaches can be classified into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary headaches are caused by chemical activity in the brain, the muscles of the head and neck, or the nerves and blood vessels surrounding the skull. They are not caused by an underlying condition.

Cluster headaches, tension headaches, and migraines are the most common examples of primary headaches. While they aren’t caused by any underlying conditions, these headaches can in fact be triggered by external factors. Common triggers include alcohol, specific foods like cured meats, a lack of sleep, poor posture, skipped meals, and stress.

Secondary headaches are caused by one or more separate conditions. Secondary headaches can occur as a result of a sinus infection, for example, a hangover, dehydration, or even dental problems. They can also occur because the patient is suffering from an aneurysm, a concussion, a brain tumor, or encephalitis.

The most common causes of a headache include:

  • Alcohol
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Underlying conditions

Source: Mayo Clinic

Physical therapy for headaches

While patients suffering from headaches might not immediately think of physical therapy as a viable treatment, it can in fact be useful. Firstly, many patients have difficulty pinpointing the cause of their headaches. A licensed physical therapist can help the patient to determine the underlying cause of their headaches by asking about the patient’s health history and evaluating their posture, strength, pain points, and range of motion.

If the physical therapist determines that the headaches are caused by an underlying condition, he or she can refer the patient to an appropriate medical specialist. For tension headaches, physical therapists can help patients improve neck mobility, strength, and posture — preventative measures that can reduce their frequency.

Source: Move Forward PT

Luna’s physical therapists treat
headaches

Luna’s talented group of physical therapists specialize in treating patients who suffer from headaches. Our PTs understand the debilitating effects of chronic headaches, and can help patients to not only identify the root cause, but address it with strengthening exercises, postural training, and lifestyle changes.

The best part of Luna? Our physical therapists come to you — it’s physical therapy, delivered.

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