Headaches-What can be done?

By Erin Reidman – CC’s Staff

Headaches-what can be done?

Headaches. Are. The. Worst. Almost all of us can relate to having them a time or two. Identifying the type of headache you’re experiencing is important and can help guide your home remedies or determine whether seeing a physical therapist to help treat your headache is appropriate. Let’s do a quick review of the two main types of headaches.

Tension-type (1)

  • Recurrent episodes that can last as short as a few minutes or up to a few weeks
  • Pain presentation is reported as pressing or tightening, mild to moderate severity, bilateral in location.
  • Described as like wearing a tight hat or a tight band around the head
  • Does not increase with physical activity
  • Nausea and vomiting is usually absent, but light and sound sensitivity may be present

Tension-type headaches are divided into: (2)

  • Infrequent episodic tension-type headache
    <1x/month, little impact on daily life
  • Frequent episodic tension-type headache
  • Between 1-15 days/month
  • Chronic tension-type headache
    >15 days/month
  • Can be difficult to distinguish this from chronic migraine
  • Some patients with chronic tension-type headache develop migraine-like features if they have severe pain, and some migraine patients develop frequent tension-type-like interval headaches

Migraine or cluster (3)

Thought to be a neurovascular pain syndrome with altered central neuronal processing (activation of brainstem nuclei, cortical hyperexcitability, and spreading cortical depression) and involvement of the trigeminovascular system (triggering neuropeptide release, which produces painful inflammation in cranial vessels and the dura mater

  • Often one-sided, throbbing or pulsating
  • Nausea, light and sound sensitivity, auras, and vomiting may be experienced
  • Symptoms worsen with physical activity

Now that you’ve pinned down what type of headache you’re experiencing, it’s time to have a PT evaluate the “why” and apply some interventions. The good news is that there is evidence based and effective treatment interventions for almost every type of headache. Along with identifying contributing factors (i.e. poor posture, muscular asymmetries, movement pattern dysfunctions, stress triggers, etc), your PT will implement different forms of manual therapy, joint mobilizations and/or manipulations, therapeutic corrective exercises, and neuromuscular reeducation tasks to provide relief. Yes, there will be some homework and individualized rehabilitative corrective exercises are a must!

Headaches are a very common diagnosis treated at CC’s Physical Therapy, and most of our patients have found great relief in just a few sessions! Don’t max out the ibuprofen intake each day while waiting for your headaches to magically heal on their own; call or stop by our clinic to have one of our docs perform an evaluation to get you back to where you want to be!

1. American. Physical Therapy. Association (APTA)

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3444224/

3. https://medlineplus.gov/migraine.html

Post Author: Erin Reidman

Erin is a DPT, wife, and mom of two wild boys. When not at work, you can find Erin teaching fitness classes at the YMCA or daydreaming of the next mountain biking/rock climbing adventure with her main squeeze.


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