Headaches! A pain in the neck

Nearly everyone has experienced the discomfort of a headache and the effect it can have on everyday life. Have you ever noticed that headaches appear at your busiest or most stressful times? There are multiple factors that influence headaches such as muscle tightness or joint stiffness, hormone levels, stress, medications and lifestyle choices. Identifying and addressing these issues is important in treating headaches and preventing their return.

Stress is a factor that can contribute to headaches as when we are stressed we can subconsciously tense our muscles or adopt poor postures. Poor posture with rounded shoulders and a forward poking head can cause muscle imbalances and tightness which can contribute to a headache. For example your head weighs about the same as a bowling ball. Imagine if you were to carry around a bowling ball all day, would you carry it close to your body or hold it out in front of you with your arms straight? …. Of course you would keep it close to your body. Similar to if your head is sitting forward due to poor posture imagine the extra strain this puts on your neck muscles.

Headaches originating from the cervical spine and neck muscles are known as cervicogenic headaches. Assessment by our physiotherapists to identify any issues with posture, neck tightness, muscle weakness and any other contributing factors can assist with finding a way to manage your headaches.  A range of manual therapy techniques can be used to relieve and treat headaches in the short term. Longer term solutions can include an individualised exercise program by one of our physiotherapists or exercise physiologists to address any of the above contributing factors.

Tips to avoid headaches:

      • Staying hydrated
      • Eating a balanced diet
      • Avoid food that can trigger headaches such as citrus fruits, some dairy products and MSG
      • Participate in regular exercise
      • Engage in activities to reduce stress

A method to reduce stress and improve posture is participating in exercise such as walking, cycling or pilates. We have got you covered! So why not participate in one of our stretch up classes to loosen your muscles or a pilates class to help with posture, strength and muscle endurance? So the next time you experience a headache don’t go for a short term fix but instead consider the benefits of finding a long term solution.

References:

Headache Australia – https://headacheaustralia.org.au/

Gwendolen, J et al. 2002, A Randomized Controlled Trial of Exercise and Manipulative Therapy for Cervicogenic Headache, Spine, Volume 27, issue 17.

Jull, G., Sterling, M., Falla, D., Treleaven, J., & O’Learly, S, 2008, Whiplash, Headache and Neck Pain: Research-Based Directions for Physical Therapies. Elsevier Limited

         – Written by Hannah Zwar