Ever had a headache? Who hasn’t! Did you know Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy can be an effective tool to reduce the symptoms.
Headaches refer to pain in the head and sometimes neck. It can be located in the back of the head (occipital), the front of the head or forehead (frontal), on the top of the head (vertex), on the sides of the head (temporal) or wraps around the head (headband). Most headaches result from tension. Tension produces pain in the neck and shoulders resulting in constriction of the blood vessels and blood circulation resulting in headaches. Stress, guilt, fear, anger, depression, and rage are all contributing factors to tension headaches.
Underlying health problems can also result in headaches. Everything from sinusitis to nutritional imbalance, spinal misalignment to PMS, poor circulation to TMJ are all culprits. Food allergies and additives, cigarette smoke, air pollutants, poor ventilation, certain drugs, chemicals, and overexposure to sun are also factors. Proper diagnosis of the particular headache makes treatment much more specific and easier to diagnose.
The two most common type of headaches are:
1) Tension-type headaches
Most headaches (about 75%) result from tension. Tension produces pain in the neck and shoulders resulting in constriction of the blood vessels and blood circulation resulting in headaches. Stress, guilt, fear, anger, depression, and rage are all contributing factors to tension headaches.
2) Vascular headaches
Vascular headaches are caused by dilation of the blood vessels in the head, and are characterized by a throbbing or pounding pain, usually on one side of the head. The most common vascular headaches are:
Migraine headaches are the most common vascular headache. Migraines are the result of abnormal flow of blood to the brain. Pain can last for several hours to several days. Migraines are frequently related to food and environmental allergies. They may also be brought on by poor circulation, chemical sensitivities, changes in humidity, stress or underlying illness. If you get frequent or unusually severe headaches, medical attention must be sought.
Typically, migraines bring severe, one-sided throbbing pain (in 40 percent of cases, however, the pain occurs on both sides). Often this is accompanied by nausea and vomiting and perhaps tremor and dizziness. Some people also experience premigraine warning symptoms, including blurred vision, “floating” visual images, and numbness in an arm or leg.
28 million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches. 12% of the total population (6% of all males, 18% of all females). For more than 70% of migraine sufferers the tendency to have migraines is hereditary. Migraines often begin during adolescence, but occur most frequently in adults between the ages of 35 and 45. Migraines are associated with changing levels of seratonin, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain. While vascular changes are evident during a migraine, the cause of the headache may actually be neurological, not vascular.
Migraine without an aura
Migraines are the result in an abnormal flow of blood to the brain. Pain can last for several hours to several days. Migraines are frequently related to food and environmental allergies. They may also be brought on by poor circulation, chemical sensitivities, changes in humidity, stress or underlying illness. If you get frequent or unusually severe headaches, medical attention must be sought. Typically, migraines bring severe, one-sided throbbing pain (in 40 percent of cases, however, the pain occurs on both sides). Often this is accompanied by nausea and vomiting and perhaps tremor and dizziness.
At the onset of a migraine headache the seratonin levels first rise and then fall dramatically. In addition to a throbbing or pounding pain on one side of the head, migraine sufferers also experience nausea, extreme sensitivity to light and noise, and sometimes dizziness or lightheadedness. The pain is aggravated by activity.
Migraine with an aura
20% of migraine sufferers experience a visual disturbance (aura) at the onset of the headache, usually 20 to 60 minutes before the headache starts. The aura is experienced as flashes of light or shimmering jagged lines in the field of vision. The individual may also experience blank spots in the field of vision, tunnel vision, numbness, weakness, or difficulty speaking.
Migraine headaches can be triggered by:
changes in sleep patterns
strong emotional states, such as depression, anxiety or excitement
Cluster headaches are very severe, recurrent, short lasting headaches, often located through or around either eye and often wakes the sufferer up at the same time every night. Unlike migraines, these headaches are more common in men than in women. Cluster headaches are the most painful type of headache, producing a sharp burning or piercing sensation. The pain is felt on one side of the head, usually behind the eye. During the headache the eye becomes watery and inflamed, and the pupil will contract. The nose may become congested on the same side of the head as the pain. Cluster headaches are short, lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 or 2 hours. Because the attack is so brief, administering medications can be difficult. Cluster headaches usually occur for a few weeks or months at a time and then go into remission for months or even years. A disorder in histamine metabolism may be responsible for cluster headaches based on current research. Cluster headaches tend to be accompanied by allergy symptoms such as nasal congestion, tearing and a runny nose.
Cluster Headaches can be triggered by:
Headaches may also result from:
1). Headaches Caused By Medical Conditions
Headaches may also occur due to flu, fever, infections, internal bleeding, and tumors, or in connection with conditions such as sinusitis, allergies, arthritis, or head injury. In these cases, once the contributing condition is relieved the headache goes away. Underlying health problems can also result in headaches. Everything from nutritional imbalance, spinal misalignment to PMS, poor circulation and TMJ are all culprits. Food allergies and additives, cigarette smoke, air pollutants, poor ventilation, certain drugs, chemicals, and overexposure to sun are also factors. Proper diagnosis of the particular headache makes treatment much more specific and easier to diagnose.
2). Medications such as analgesics
Analgesic Rebound Headaches are caused by prescription or non-prescription headache medications. Analgesic agents are used to treat headache symptoms, but when they are taken on a daily basis they can become the cause of headaches. Since the medication interferes with the body’s natural ability to fight pain, the body becomes extremely susceptible to pain once the influence of the drug has worn off.
Medical attention is urgent if your headache is accompanied by double vision, projectile vomiting, weakness, paralysis, one sided deafness or vertigo.
Managing Your Headaches
Prevention is the key!
1. Sleep. A lot of people sleep a headache off, but don’t oversleep. It is not recommended that you nap. While a nap may rid you of an existing headache, you don’t want to nap if you’re headache-free. Napping can actually cause migraines to those who are PRONE to them. Sleeping in an awkward position, or even on your stomach, can cause the muscles in your neck to contract and trigger a headache. Sleeping on your back or in a fetile position helps.
2. Posture also plays a role. Stand tall, sit straight. Avoid leaning or pushing your head in one direction. Forward head syndrome has been an issue recognized more so lately, due to the fact that so many people work on computers. The pitching of the head forward has actually become a syndrome. This weakens the entire foundation from the lumbar spine upward. If you can imagine toy blocks all aligned on top of each other. Now imagine pushing the top block forward. The other blocks underneath it begin to “stress” as they try to hang on to the top block. The same thing is happening to our spinal column as we pitch our head too far forward, instead of keep the head back and aligned over the rest of the spine. This leads to tension headaches and aggrevates TMJ syndrome.
3. Heat and cold. Some people like the feeling of cold against their foreheads or necks and for them it seems to help. An ice pack applied to the areas of the head, neck, back or shoulders will often relieve the burning sensation of headaches. This tends to work better for inflammation due to (all day) overuse. Others prefer hot showers or putting heat on their head, shoulder blades or necks. Heat helps increase blood flow and circulation. The idea is to find what works best for your type of headache.
4. Deep breathing is a great tension reliever. Take note: you’re doing it right if your stomach is moving more than your chest. Check yourself for signs that you are tensing up and inviting headaches. Do you also have clenched teeth, clenched fists, hunched shoulders? Do this progressive relaxation technique
5. Learn biofeedback. Studies have proven it effective for both tension headaches and migraines. Biofeedback is the innate ability to influence the automatic nervous system through the exertion of will and mind. Chances are you have used biofeedback yourself. You’ve used it if you have ever taken your temperature or stepped on a scale. These devices “feed back” information about your body’s condition.
6. Use your hands. Both self-massage and acupressure can help.
7. Excessive noise is a common trigger for tension headaches. Try balancing a noisy situation with complete silence. Consider ear plugs for some quiet time.
8. Protect your eyes from the sun, fluorescent lighting, television, or a video display and computer terminals which, can lead to squinting, eyestrain, and, finally, headache. Sunglasses are a good idea if you’re going to be outside. If you’re working inside, take some rest breaks from the computer screen and also wear some type of tinted glasses.
9. Eat something. Headaches can be the result of dehydration or low blood sugar. Drink a glass of water. Have a bowl of cereal or eat an orange. Chewing on a raw piece of ginger root is an ancient Chinese secret for headaches.
10. Trigger point therapy. Probably one of my best remedies for tension headaches, this can be done with a tennis ball while laying on a hard floor