Headaches are one of the most universal health complaints and are varied in their cause of onset as well as with the way we experience symptoms. Headaches may be felt as a buildup of pressure in one part of the head, a crunching, stabbing or clamping feeling – some headaches even feel like an ‘eye popping’ sensation. Headaches can stem from a variety of issues, including:
- stiff joints
- high blood pressure
- chemical origins, such as hormones, irritants and medications
- bad posture
- stress and anxiety
The great majority of headaches stem from bad posture. Bad posture puts pressure on the joints of the upper neck, which leads to pain.
You can see this effect clearly illustrated if you bend back your finger. Initially, your finger will just feel a stretch, but if you maintain this extreme position, pain eventually comes on. If you keep your finger extended in this extreme way for more than 15 minutes, you will experience intense pain and will then start to experience strain in your forearm and shoulder as your body tries to initiate compensation patterns because of the pain. The impact of prolonged bad posture has the same effect in your neck.
Headaches that arise from sustained poor posture, tight muscles and stiff joints respond very successfully to physiotherapy treatment. Even headaches arising from other origins, such as high blood pressure and chemicals, are often reduced by treating the muscles and skeletal structures.
Such was the case of a 35 year old woman who had suffered from menstrual cycle related headaches since she was a teenager. By the time she sought treatment, she had crippling daily headaches, was on constant medication and was having difficulty concentrating or doing any physical activity. After a series of treatments, she still noticed headaches during her period, but was pain free 3 out of 4 weeks, able to think clearly and forego the use of daily medication. This made a significant difference to her everyday life.
If you get frequent headaches, try to take stock of the rest of your body: is your neck stiff to move or is another movement particularly painful? This will give us a better idea of the ‘big picture’ and will help us to maximize the effects of your treatment session.
What you can do if you have frequent headaches
- Make a record of when you get headaches eg do you wake up with headaches, get them after driving or do they mostly occur on the weekend after missing your weekday coffee?
- Check the position of your computer – is it properly set up in an area with good lighting and supportive seating?
- Reduce your use of laptops, tablets and mobile phones, as using these devices causes you to bend your neck excessively, straining the neck joints
- Use heat on the muscles of your shoulders – this is where you develop compensation patterns for poor posture
- Come and see us if the frequency of your headaches has not reduced after you have tried the suggestions outlined above, or if they still occur more than two times each week