Do you suffer from headaches?
As many as one in every 20 adults worldwide suffer from a headache almost every day. Headaches are painful and disabling, with most sufferers reporting reductions in social activity and work capacity during an episode.
Headache itself is a symptom that can be caused by many conditions, some, such as migraine and neuralgia, that need to be treated medically and others, called tension-type headaches, that can be treated by a Physiotherapist. If you are experiencing regular headaches it is best to visit your GP so they can rule out any serious cause, however there are a few general rules that can help you determine whether you are experiencing a tension-type headache that can be helped by Physiotherapy.
Tension-type headaches feel like a tight band of pain or pressure around the head, often spreading from or into the neck. They can strike at any time, but most commonly occur in the middle of the day or in the afternoon. Unlike other causes of headache such as migraine and cluster headaches, these headaches aren’t typically sharp and piercing and they don’t usually make you sensitive to light or sound, affect your hearing or eyesight or make you feel nauseated. Although tension-type headaches are usually only mildly to moderately painful and may not take long to ease, they can become a real nuisance if they develop into an almost daily occurrence.
Why do I get tension-type headaches?
Because many people “carry their tension” in the muscles of their neck and shoulders, these muscles can become tight and overworked due to poor posture or during periods of increased stress or workload. Tension-type headaches can then occur due to excessive pressure on the scalp and joints of the neck.
How can I stop them?
If you think you are suffering from tension-type headaches, the best thing to do is to make an appointment to see one of the experienced Physiotherapists at North West Physio Keperra. We will be able to perform a full assessment and confirm whether your recurrent headaches really are due to your neck or not. We will then use treatment techniques such as massage and joint mobilisation to relieve the symptoms in the short term, as well as prescribing stretching and strengthening exercises for home and work to prevent your headaches from coming back.
Try this simple exercise
Also, here are a few handy tips you can start today that can help decrease your neck related headaches until you can see us for a full assessment and treatment plan.
Fix your posture
Sitting with a “head forward” posture places a large amount of strain on the muscles and joints of your neck, so make sure you are constantly checking your posture, especially if you work on a computer. Keep in mind that the ideal posture allows you to sit or stand comfortably with your shoulder, hip and ear in a straight line perpendicular to the floor. A good way to visualise this is to imagine you are slowly being pulled up by a string attached to the back of your head, making sure you keep your chin gently tucked in as you do. Do not try to push your chest out or pull your shoulders back to firmly, as this will only result in extra strain on already tight and overworked muscles.
If you do work at a computer all day and find it difficult to maintain proper posture, your workstation set up may be incorrect. Make sure the top of your monitor is at eye level when sitting correctly, your monitor is not too far back that you have to lean in to see it properly and your desk and chair heights are such that you don’t have to lift your shoulders to type and use the mouse.
Another factor that can lead to tension-type headaches is excessive laptop use. Because the keyboard and monitor are joined, it is impossible to maintain an ergonomic set up. Keep laptop use to a minimum or connect an external mouse and keyboard so you can use your laptop without having to look down constantly.
Take frequent breaks
No matter activity you are doing, if you find it is causing you headaches then you need to take regular rest breaks to change your posture momentarily and possibly even do some gentle stretches. If you’re unsure what to do, we can prescribe a stretching routine that will work best for you.
Find ways to minimise stress
If your headaches worsen with increased stress, try some stress relieving activities such as yoga or meditation. Gentle exercise can also help to decrease stress and relieve muscle tension, so take some time out for things like a relaxing walk in the park. If you are unsure what activities you should and shouldn’t be doing, give us a call. We can inform you of the movements and positions to avoid as well as give you ideas for gentle exercise that is appropriate for your level of fitness.
Heat is also a great way to relieve muscular tension, and as long as you aren’t burning yourself then you really can’t use it too much. Comfortable warmth for 20-30 minutes at a time may be all you need to help decrease your symptoms in the short term. For even better relief however, heat can also be combined with a simple stretching routine that we can prescribe for you.