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Have you got a headache?

Having chronic headaches can be a debilitating condition and most people will experience some sort of headache every now and then. Whether you've had a stressful week at work, personal, financial issues, annoying boss, juggling different aspects of life, upcoming exams...etc. There is no simple cause as to why people experience headaches. It's often is a combination of different factors in life such as life style, posture, habits and diet. I would like to talk more about the common types of headaches and how it can be managed.

Common Types of headaches

There are multiple causes of headaches and different types of headaches. Without going into too much detail it can be divided mainly into two different types. Vascular and Cervicogenic.

Vascular headaches

Migraine – may cause nausea, vomiting, weight gain. You may also get symptoms such as dizziness, photophobia (unable to see bright lights/ blurred vision). The pain is sharp and intense and it may move from the back of the head to the front. It may also be aggravated by:

  • Hormonal changes (e.g. premenstrual or menstrual, hyperthyroidism),

  • Food especially red wine/alcohol and chocolate

  • Lack of sleep

  • Marked change in temperature or

  • Dehydration

Cervicogenic headache

Originates from abnormalities around the neck including the muscles, joints, fascia and neural structures and it is the most common type of headache. There are neural connections between the muscles of the neck and the head hence pain can be referred to different areas of the head such as frontal, behind the eye or your temples even though the pain may be triggered by muscular issues stemming from the neck!

Majority of tension type headaches originate from the upper cervical spine compression or stiffness commonly C12, the upper cervical vertebrae. Treatments include:

  • Stretches for the muscles around the neck

  • Pain medication

  • Physiotherapy to mobilise the stiff upper cervical joint and release the muscles that may be causing tightness.

  • Strengthen the deep neck muscles which help to stabilize the head

  • Education on lifestyle factors that may contribute to the pain

  • Most importantly Postural re-education in order to address the cause of the headaches.

Changes in your diet and lifestyle may also have a huge impact on the prognosis and the outcome. Regular exercise and minimizing red wine or too much chocolate/caffeine can reduce the amount of pain as well if it is a contributing factor. Speak to your Physiotherapist for more detail and treatment options.

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