Non-drug management of tension-type headaches (TTH) and migraines are gaining popularity in Australia nowadays. According to some recent researches, paradoxically the use of analgesics or the pain-killer medications increases the pain over time. This has forced the public opinion to shift from pain killer medications to physiotherapy modalities when it comes to the management of recurring headaches.
What causes tension-type headaches?
These types of headaches are mediated through the central nervous system and the most common stimulants of tension-type headaches that we have observed at Happy Physio include stresses (both mental and physical), irregular or inappropriate meals, high intake or withdrawal of coffee, other caffeine containing beverages, dehydration, sleep disorders, female menstrual cycles, reduced or lack of physical exercises, and hormonal substitutions.
How the clients are analyzed prior to physiotherapy?
A detailed and careful investigation of the patient history will reveal any factors that may suggest musculoskeletal triggers for pain and any strategies the patient may have used to get over it. A physical examination will either confirm or rule out discrete musculoskeletal dysfunction.
The physiotherapy modalities involved in managing headaches caused by biophysical dysfunction is entirely different from modalities involved in treating tension-type headaches that occur due to psychosocial stresses.
A physical examination is also helpful in determining the presence of generalized pericranial tenderness, which is the single most important indicator of tension-type headache. The client then will be analyzed to determine what brings on the pain, what makes it worse, and what can you do to make it better. They will also investigate if the onset of the pain is related to a specific incident both traumatic and otherwise. The activities that you engage during your day and your work duties also have a profound impact on the headaches that you may have.
The physician will look for different facial expressions such as wrinkling of forehead, narrowing the eyes, or clenching the jaw. He may also observe how you stand, sit and move and the positioning of the head and your shoulders. Active and passive mobility testing would be done to determine the presence of any biomechanical dysfunction and an evaluation of the masticatory system will be done as needed.
Physiotherapy modalities for headaches and migraine
Physiotherapy modalities associated with treatment of tension-type headaches mainly focuses on strategies of muscle relaxation that will prevent the nociceptive or pain-generating signals from reaching the central nervous system. The ultimate aim of physiotherapy is to wean the client out from pain-killer medications gradually substituting it with active exercises, heat and cold applications, and relaxation.
Relaxation techniques developed to increase muscle relaxation are the conventional therapy for tension-type headaches. By undergoing these relaxation techniques, the clients will start to understand the difference between tense and relaxed muscles. Usually, the training sessions are started in a comfortable, recumbent position in a darkened environment. Finally, the TTH sufferer is expected to practice relaxation techniques in their daily lives irrespective of where they are. During the training, the physio will try to develop an understanding about how the client stands, sits, and walks, and how he lies when he is sleeping.
A simple 30-second relaxation program that you can do at your office
- Sit down on a chair with a firm support for back.
- Put your hands on the knees and feet on the floor firmly.
- Close your eyes, lower your shoulders, and relax your jaw.
- Breathe calmly and rhythmically.
- Imagine that your body is relaxing from the feet to the toes.
- After 30 seconds open your eyes and stretch yourself.
- Feel yourself happy and return to your assigned duties.
Ergonomics and anti-stress training
An ergonomic analysis of the individual’s work-related posture and movements are often helpful in determining the root cause of headaches. Many working positions produce a static load on the neck and shoulder muscles. During the course of the day’s stress, this may progressively give rise to cramping, excessive tone, or even produce trigger-points in the neck and shoulder. These symptoms may express as head aches and pain in the neck.
Your physio will be able to recognize these factors and advice you on appropriate sitting and standing positions. Your physio will be able to make you understand about appropriate gait while sitting and standing.
Other physiotherapy modalities
Stretching and strengthening exercises, massages, and heat and cold applications are also used to relieve the client from headaches. Headaches caused by cervical biomechanical dysfunction are highly benefited from the various physical exercises of the neck and head region.
Some simply home exercises to relieve from headaches
The following exercises provide relaxation to the jaws, eyes, forehead, and shoulders thereby preventing the pain-invoking signals to reach the central nervous system. Ultimately, it reduces the overall pain experience of the sufferer.
- Open your mouth and clench your teeth alternatively.
- Raise your eyebrows as high as you can, then relax.
- Wrinkle your eyebrows.
- Close your eyes tightly.
- Raise your shoulder as high as you can, and then let them fall.
- Move your jaws sideways in each direction.
At Happy Physio, our well-trained physios will identify the root cause of your headaches to begin with. Consultations with our experienced physios will map out a treatment plan that will be personalized and most appropriate for you. Our experience tells us that 99% of the patients started on our physiotherapy program started developing positive results within 2 weeks.
Call (08) 9443 4991 now and let us help you 🙂