PARAMUS, N.J. -- Headaches are a common problem, often seemingly benign and unpredictable. However, many times these pains can be solved by simple treatment from a physical therapist.
Many headaches can be caused by neck pain and issues, which are known as cervicogenic headaches. A recent study found evidence showing that more than half of all headaches diagnosed as untreatable migraines were actually cervicogenic headaches, and were easily resolved with treatment directed at the neck.
Often times, stiffness around the neck can lead to referred pain into the head. With cervicogenic headaches, the pain in the head will often be limited to one side of the head, and symptoms will be brought on by head or neck movements.
Tension-type headaches are pains in the head that are caused by the small muscles of the neck and shoulders. Those with these headaches may complain of pain towards the end of their work day, or after sitting at their desk or computer for prolonged periods of time. Most often, stretching and strengthening exercises, individually prescribed by a therapist, will help alleviate this type of headache.
Migraine-type headaches are characterized by sensitivity to sound and light, and trigger an unrelenting head pain that may cause nausea and other symptoms. It has long been felt that physical therapy will not have an effect on migraine-type headaches; however, a recent review has found evidence that manual treatments to the neck may help decrease the intensity and frequency of migraine-type headaches.
If you notice that your headache symptoms are associated with head or neck movements and positions, muscle fatigue or morning stiffness, a physical therapist may be able to help mitigate your symptoms.
Scott Siverling, PT, OCS is a manager at HSS Rehabilitation in Paramus.