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Where is your headache coming from?

Headaches are very common.  Most of us experience some form of ‘headache’ through a combination of every day factors, in particular dehydration, tiredness and the ever present stresses of our modern, hectic lifestyles. An occasional headache is to be expected, but what if they persist?

For some, a persistent, chronic headache can often set alarm bells ringing, and our first thoughts can be concerns of something sinister.  However, if you have seen your GP and ruled out things like sinus and ear infections and anything more serious, you may be suffering from an imbalance somewhere else in your body that might not be an immediately obvious cause of headaches.

At Physiocare, we regularly see patients who have tried many things, including alternative therapies, to rid themselves, unsuccessfully, of chronic headaches.  One common complaint is a feeling of tension in the head, which can sometimes be attributed to neck pain.  On further investigation however, this may be caused by something as simple as poor posture leading to tightness in the upper part of your spine and poor muscle action in the around the hips, perhaps by sitting badly or for too long at your desk or constantly carrying a heavy handbag on one side.

The good news is that many chronic headache conditions are often treatable through physiotherapy.  The most important thing is to undergo a thorough assessment to see if your physiotherapist can identify a potential cause of your headaches.

Common problems:

  • Neck pain – many headaches are associated with neck pain.  If your headaches are focused down one side of your head and worsened by movement of the neck, then it may be you are suffering from cervicogenic headache. Simply put, this means that the joints and muscles in your neck are restricted or tight and your physiotherapist can develop an appropriate programme of treatment to mobilise the area.
  • Poor postural habits – persistent use of a mouse and crossing your legs when sitting can cause lengthening of certain muscle which results in a muscle imbalance and can lead to restricted joints and movement.

Dos and Don’ts:

Do:

  • Avoid maintaining a static position for any long period (more than half an hour), such as sitting at a desk, or driving without changing position
  • Be aware of simple things like how many pillows you sleep on.  Most of us get around 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night which is a long time to be in a single position if it is putting strain on your neck
  • See your GP if you have any concerns about chronic headaches.  If a source of the problem cannot be identified, it may be that physiotherapy could help
  • Take regular exercise, half an hour’s walking every day helps to keep muscles strong

Don’t:

  • Ignore the problem!
  • Keep popping pills in the hope it will go away

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