Suffering from Chronic or Recurrent Headaches? Physical Therapy can Help!
What Are Chronic and Recurrent Headaches?
Chronic or recurrent headaches can affect our ability to concentrate, sleep, be in a good mood, work, and enjoy recreational or social activities. Chronic headaches are ones that last for 3 months or more. Recurrent headaches are ones that occur often or repeatedly. Common types of chronic or recurrent headaches treated in physical therapy are musculoskeletal and migraine headaches. These headaches can have various causes, but frequently the cause of pain is due to 1) muscle spasm/trigger points in the neck and shoulders and/or 2) dysfunction in the joints of the upper neck. Either cause can irritate nerves and refer (send) pain to various locations of the head and face. Headaches can range from mild to severe intensity. Certain neck movements and postures can make the pain worse with chronic and recurrent headaches.
How Can Physical Therapy Help Chronic And Recurrent Headaches?
Physical therapy can teach you which movements and postures can contribute to your headache pain and which movements and postures can reduce, and often eliminate, chronic and recurrent headache pain. Improving your posture when sitting, standing, reading, and working can decrease joint stiffness and the formation of muscle spasms. Learning how to position your head, neck and body when sleeping can also improve your sleep quality and diminish chronic and recurrent headaches caused by poor alignment. Exercises you learn in physical therapy will help improve your strength and stability for maintaining good posture and relieve muscle tension. Additionally, there are various types of manual therapies that can be performed by a physical therapist aimed at decreasing muscle spasms/trigger points, lengthening tight tissues, improving blood flow for healing, reducing compression on nerves, and improving mobility of joints.
Gaining Control Over Chronic And Recurrent Headaches
Many techniques performed and exercises learned in physical therapy can be done at home, work, on the field, or wherever you are to self-manage and reduce your pain. Having control over reducing or eliminating your headache pain is what chronic or recurrent headache suffers typically want most. So consider trying physical therapy today to address your musculoskeletal chronic and recurrent headache pain and get back to living a full and enjoyable life!
Written by Maureen E Gordon, PT, MSPT, CEAS- physical therapist in our Easton clinic. Her specialties include vestibular, headache, and concussion rehabilitation. She was the facility director of a Balance and Headache Center in Pennsylvania, where she focused exclusively on treating these specialty patients. Maureen received her Certification in Vestibular Rehabilitation and also her Certification in Cervicogenic Dizziness (2013) from Emory University and the American Physical Therapy Association.