Tag Archives: Stress Headaches

Do You Suffer From Frequent Headaches? Physical Therapy Can Help

Physical Therapy Can Help You Head Away From Chronic Headaches

The term “sick headache” might have been coined to describe exactly how you feel today — and every day. A one-off headache encounter can be distressing enough, but frequent or constant headache pain can completely disable you. Many of these headaches have underlying musculoskeletal or biochemical causes — which means that they can be corrected through the right forms of treatment. In many cases, physical therapy turns out to be just what the doctor ordered for chronic headaches.

Anatomy of a Headache: Understanding the Underlying Causes

What is a headache, beyond the simple definition of a pain in the head? There are actually several categories of headaches, each with its own distinct causes and symptoms.

For most sufferers, chronic headaches mean tension headaches. A tension headache can be triggered or aggravated by emotional tension, but the actual mechanism involves physical tension in the muscles of the neck. Tight or strained neck muscles can go into spasm. When spasms overtake certain tiny muscles near the base of the skull, the resulting tugging action irritates a membrane called the dura mater. The dura mater then responds by flooding your head with a vaguely pounding or aching sensation.

Weak or underdeveloped neck muscles may be naturally vulnerable to tightness and spasms. Accident injuries (including whiplash) can push the skull off-center in relation to the neck, subjecting the neck muscles to abnormal stresses. (A headache that specifically involves the upper cervical spine is termed a cervinogenic headache.) Even routine postural problems can cause neck strain and tension headaches. For instance, if you stare down at your smartphone for hours each day, you can develop a painful problem known as “text neck” which also promotes headaches.

Other kinds of headaches, while less common, can prove even more debilitating. Cluster headaches are a prime example. These intense headaches strike one side of your face in clusters of attacks. These headaches have been associated with cervical spinal abnormalities.

Migraines are even more notorious for causing nausea, light/sound sensitivity, faintness and vision problems on top of brutal headaches. Migraines sometimes occur as a complication of concussions; they are also triggered by exposure to specific stimuli such as lights, sounds, or foods.

How Our Physical Therapist Can Reduce Your Discomfort

Our physical therapist can help you get to the bottom of your headache problem. If your headache is cervinogenic in nature, we may need to work on your neck. For instance:

  • Exercises that strengthen and loosen your neck muscles can help to ease the stresses that set off your headaches.
  • Chiropractic adjustment can correct skeletal misalignment issues that place your neck muscles under unnatural strain. These adjustments can also help to reduce cluster headache attacks.
  • Laser therapy and massage therapy can both relax tight neck tissues and speed recovery to injured muscles.
  • Corrective exercises and postural/ergonomic changes can help you steer clear of “text neck” and other occupational headache triggers.
  • If your migraines are the result of a recent concussion, a carefully-administered course of physical therapy can actually help you recuperate from that concussion more quickly.
  • Our physical therapist can help you identify other migraine triggers and suggest strategies for avoiding them in your everyday life.

Ready to Overcome Headache Pain? Give Physical Therapy a Try

You’re not doomed to go through life plagued by frequent headaches. If you’re ready to free yourself from this burden, give physical therapy a try. Contact our physical therapist today at Advantage Osteopractic Physical Therapy to learn more about our headache treatment options!

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Did you Know Physical Therapy Can Help Reduce Stress Related Headaches? Here’s How.

The work day is almost over, but your inbox is full and your to-do list is long. You are already thinking about the many things you’ll have to handle in the evening, and what will be facing you when you reach your desk again tomorrow. You pinch the bridge of your nose, but to no avail. The headache has already settled in, and is likely to distract you from the last few hours of your day.

Does this situation sound familiar? Stress-related headaches are no joke, and regularly turning to medication to help make the pain go away doesn’t take away from the issue that is causing the headaches in the first place: the stress! Identifying a stress-related headache as indeed being stress-related is the first step, but from there you need to take steps to address the cause of the pain, as well the pain itself. Physical therapy can help you reduce the severity of stress-related headaches, as well as the frequency with which these types of headaches occur.

Stress related headaches develop due to a combination of hormonal surges and physical tension in the body, often the neck and shoulders. You may not realize the way in which you force your body to physically carry stress throughout the day, but a bit of time on a yoga mat in the evening would help you to stretch out some of those kinks and alleviate a bit of the tension that finds its way to your head after a long day. Sitting in an uncomfortable desk chair, being cooped up in the office all day long, a frustrating and overly-long commute in a cramped vehicle—or even more uncomfortable, on public transit!—all of these factors contribute to tension in the body, and all of that tension can manifest itself as debilitating, distracting, and downright painful stress-related headaches.

Physical therapy can help to reduce pain from stress-related headaches by:

  • Reducing tension in the neck and back. Many physical therapists will start with a targeted stretching routine that will alleviate some of the tension that is most frequently held in the back, neck and even the shoulders. These stretches are often simply to repeat at home, and once a physical therapist has guided you through the best form of stretches you can be sure that the stretching you do on your own will be safe and effective.
  • Alleviating tension in the jaw. This is another common area to hold tension, except that this isn’t something that can be stretched out at home. Your physical therapist can use targeted massage and other physical therapy techniques to reduce tension in the jaw, which can help to reduce headaches.
  • Promoting muscle relaxation. Working with your physical therapist can provide you with the opportunity to understand muscle relaxation techniques, which can be helpful in the midst of a stressful situation. Learning how to relax muscles when your inclination is to constrict them means promoting airflow through the body and thereby promoting your ability to stay calm in the face of stress. This can further help support the reduction of tension headaches.

Many people think of physical therapy as a type of treatment to turn to following a car accident or injury, and while these are concerns that physical therapy can help with, this traditional treatment of pain relief if just the tip of the iceberg. Tension headaches are debilitating, and physical therapy can help you overcome that pain. Contact our office in Lexington, KY for more information about using physical therapy to reduce stress-related headaches.