'Physiotherapy': the treatment of disease, injury, or deformity by physical methods such as massage and exercise.
The Oxford English Dictionary
A headache is defined as pain or discomfort in the head or upper neck. It is one of the most common locations of pain in the body and has numerous causes. I know too well how frustrating and debilitating headaches can be. I have been suffering from headaches since I was a child and I have been diagnosed with migraines in early adulthood. Some people have occasional headaches that resolve quickly, while others suffer from chronic daily headaches. In 2007, the International Headache Society agreed upon an updated classification system for headaches. This new classification system allows health care practitioners to understand a specific diagnosis more completely in order to provide better and more effective treatment regimens. There are three major categories of headaches:
Primary headaches are not caused by an underlying disorder. Secondary headaches are those that directly result from a specific underlying pathology. There are numerous causes of this type of headache and so a doctor must confirm the diagnosis. With secondary headaches, it is essential to treat and rectify the underlying cause. The third category of headaches comprises those of neurological origin. In this section, only tension headaches, the most common of primary headaches shall be discussed.
When the muscles at the back of your head work too hard, they cause neck pain and tension headaches. Tension headaches, muscle spasm, neck pain and joint stiffness can all occur at the same time. These symptoms can seriously affect your quality of life causing you to take time off work and from the activities you enjoy. In tension headaches the pain can refer to the back of the head, the side of the head, around the face and jaw, behind the eye and/or into the ear. The neck muscles tighten more than is necessary to hold your head upright, resulting in nerve compression and a feeling of pressure behind the eyes. This can be caused by stress, squinting and/or poor sitting posture.
Many people have sedentary occupations that cause them to adopt a poor head posture. This occurs when your head is bent forwards for long periods of time, for example when driving, studying or working at a computer. This compromises the joints in the neck, putting undue strain on some more than others. This posture also causes spasm and shortening of the muscles at the back of the neck and upper back, resulting in pain and loss of movement.
Identifying the underlying triggers for tension headaches is a key factor in helping you to alleviate them. You may also need to make simple changes to your lifestyle such as pacing your daily activities, adjusting your work station, taking regular breaks from working on your computer or simply making more time to relax. Physiotherapy and acupuncture are drug-free therapies to help release the muscle spasm that contributes to tension headaches. Manual therapy and exercise will help to improve joint stiffness, decrease pain and reduce the recurrence of these symptoms.