7 things you should know about headaches – Why you should see your physiotherapist

Why you should see your physiotherapist

Headaches are one of the most common problems seen in health care practices. It is estimated that, within a given year, 85% of the population will experience headache. In children, 40% will have experienced headache by age 7 and 75% by age 15.

Many patients (and doctors!) still do not recognize that headaches can come from problems in the neck.

1. Neck related headaches are a common and under-diagnosed source of headache

Whilst it is important to rule out serious disorders such as brain tumours and haemorrhage, most headaches have a non-serious cause. One of the common sources of headache is a problem in and around the neck joints. These types of headaches are often incorrectly diagnosed as migraine.

2. Headache can be related to dysfunction of the joints in the upper neck

The upper three segments of the neck can generate headache. The joints of the upper neck can cause headache if they are arthritic, have stiffened up, are placed under excessive loading or have been previously injured (such as an old whiplash injury).

4. Neck related headache can be related to poor posture

Poor posture has often been linked to neck related headache. Patients with a forward head posture, rounded shoulders and a rounded mid back are typically neck related headache sufferers.

5. Neck related headache can be related to weakness in the supporting neck muscles

Weakness and poor endurance in the neck muscles responsible for maintaining optimal posture, have been implicated in the development of neck related headache. This means that many neck related headache sufferers develop poor posture or are unable to maintain optimal posture over a prolonged period of time. This places excessive stress on the upper neck structures.

6. Neck related headache can be relieved by physiotherapy!

It is an ongoing mystery why more people are not referred by their family doctors or do not, by their own volition, undergo a trial of physiotherapy for persistent and ongoing headache. This is especially so if more serious causes have been ruled out. Physiotherapy can very effectively address the various musculoskeletal (muscle, joint, soft-tissue) types of headache. Multitudes of patients have suffered from ongoing headache, and have subsequently been relieved by physiotherapy. Very often they ask why it wasn't recommended earlier. Physiotherapists are usually at a loss to answer that question.

7. Seek help as soon as possible

As with most conditions, the sooner intervention begins, the sooner relief occurs. The longer a problem is present, the greater the resistance to improvement. If you suffer from persistent headache, speak to your physiotherapist.