Tackle Your Tension Headache with PT

Don’t let stress get the best of you, physical therapy can help
By Luna
Tackle Your Tension Headache with PT

If there’s one thing that can really get you down, it’s a headache. Headaches are one of the most common types of physical pain among adults and teens alike, with serious cases affecting more than 45 million Americans. 90% of patients diagnosed with Common migraine have associated neck pain. One hundred percent of patients with tension headaches have associated neck pain.

We have all been there at one point or another, trying desperately to soothe the throbbing, uncomfortable pain that comes from a headache. Although some headaches go away on their own, not all types of headaches are brief — some may even last for days or longer, making relief seem impossible.

The Mayo Clinic defines a headache as pain that occurs in any region of the head and can range from sharp pain to a dull ache. If a headache persists and the sensation of pain is more severe, it may be time to seek a medical professional’s help. However, because there are so many different types of headaches and possible causes, it may be challenging to diagnose the type of headache and effectively begin treatment.

Types of Headaches

The International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD) separates headaches into two different categories: primary and secondary.

Primary headaches are considered a condition themselves, not caused by another condition. The most common include:

  • Migraines
  • Tension Headaches
  • Cluster Headaches
  • Exertional Headaches

Secondary headaches refer to headache pain resulting as a symptom of another condition. Some examples:

  • Medication Overuse Headaches
  • Sinus Headaches
  • Caffeine-Related Headaches
  • Injury-Related Headaches
  • Menstrual Headaches

Physical Therapy For The Tension Headache

The most common of all of these are tension headaches (also know as stress-related headaches or Cervicogenic headaches). These occur when muscles in the neck and around the scalp contract and can be very debilitating. Tension headaches can result from any of the following:

Physical therapy is a great way to alleviate pain and discomfort associated with tension-type headaches and also to help identify long term awareness of the underlying contributors to the headaches. PTs are experts in pain management and can actually play a huge role in identifying the type of headache and setting up a treatment plan for relief.

When you first meet with your PT, they are likely to ask you questions about your health history to determine the specific characteristics of your headache, assess for any red flags and identify the root cause of your headaches. Some patients may have a headache and neck pain that developed from sleeping wrong or the headache can be chronic in nature due to a longstanding neck pain issue. PTs thoroughly examine your neck range of motion, strength, and posture to best tailor your treatment.

  • Testing neck range of motion helps detect any limitations of side to side mobility or rotation limitation directing testing for trigger points, overused muscles or joint restrictions. Forty-seven percent of patients with headaches also have associated upper back pain and mobility deficits. 
  • Strength testing of your deep and superficial neck muscles helps to ensure your deep cervical muscles are strong and the superficial muscles are not working too hard. Evidence indicates that patients with chronic neck pain are associated with deep cervical flexor muscle weakness.
  • Most importantly, poor posture with forward head position, rounded shoulders, rounded upper back and being in the same position for several hours are not very forgiving and cause significant overactivity of the upper neck muscles.

Benefits of On-Demand PT with Luna

We understand that suffering from a headache can make getting out of bed difficult -- trust us, we’ve all been there -- so Luna PTs come to you. With Luna’s on-demand physical therapy, your therapist will be able to provide care in your home. 

“This can be particularly helpful in times of neck and upper back stiffness, pain around your eyes or sometimes even nausea, vomiting like vestibular symptoms associated with headaches. Receiving accurate, prompt and effective care in your home can help with being in known environments and creating less environmental stimulation, which can help avoid flare-ups in your headache,” says Palak Shah, PT. 

Don’t fret about having to drive to a clinic, putting more strain on your condition. Instead consider the in-home, expert care from our Luna PTs, when and where you need it the most. Contact us today and be proactive in taking care of your headaches in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County, and Seattle areas!

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