Physiotherapy techniques to reduce headache pain

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The pain and discomfort from headaches can significantly reduce your productivity at work, at home or in school. What makes headaches challenging is that you can't easily diagnose the cause of pain. Some headaches are a sign of infection, while others are caused by physical injury to other areas of your body.

Because the muscles and tissue of our bodies are highly interconnected, injury/tension to one area may cause a ripple effect to other areas. This is why exercise physio treatment can help with some types of headache pain. In some cases, tension around the neck and upper shoulders may result in chronic headaches.  

Headaches from tense muscles

There is a high density of muscles that are present in the neck, upper back, and shoulder area. Tension in this part of the body may cause your nerve endings to transmit pain signals to your brain, causing headaches. For example, many people who experience vehicle accidents may have slammed their shoulders and backs or twisted their necks as a result of the impact. This soreness and tension may be interpreted by your brain as a headache. Headaches from muscle pain may also occur after intense physical activity, injury from slips and falls, or maintaining improper body positioning.

Perhaps the most common situation is where the muscles and tendons in the above-mentioned regions are sore. Soreness often causes pain, and this pain could be interpreted as a headache. You may find that this pain is persistent even after trying many different types of medication.

A common mistake that patients make is to associate headache pain to just illness or emotional stress. Remember that physical issues could also be an underlying cause of headaches.

Relieving headache pain via physiotherapy

The good news is that headaches caused by muscle pain can be treated using physiotherapy. The idea is to relieve soreness, heal damaged tissue, and promote healthy behaviours that can reduce or prevent headache pain. Because the primary muscles that may cause headaches are located in the neck, upper back and shoulder area, massage therapy is a common approach towards solving this issue. Massages loosen the affected tissue and promote flexibility.

Your physiotherapist may begin with identifying where the injury or soreness is coming from. The next step is to gently manipulate affected tissue over multiple sessions. They may also encourage behavioural changes such as avoiding bending for long periods, controlling how much weight you exert on your shoulders from heavy lifting, and adopting good posture along your spine.

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