Tension headaches are a common problem for many Australians.
Primary headaches (tension headaches and migraines) make up 90% of all recurrent headaches, affecting 30%-78% of the population at some point.
We’re going to take you through how to address tension headaches and why physiotherapy can help break the cycle of pain and medication.
What is a Tension Headache?
“Tension headache” is a class of headaches that stem from muscle and posture problems, rather than brain chemistry. They usually occur because the muscles of the neck are too tight and pull on the head, or because posture is putting pressure on the spine.
Is Your Pain a Tension Headache?
Symptoms of a tension-type headache include:
- Mild to moderate persistent pain which is usually felt on both sides of the head or neck
- Band-like tightness around the eyes, neck, temples, or scalp
- Scalp, neck and shoulder muscle tenderness
- Restricted neck movements due to muscular stiffness or discomfort
- Recurrent pain, often brought on by stress which can last for minutes, hours, days or months.
- Mild sensitivity to light and noise
- Lack of concentration and sleeping difficulties
- Anxiety and depression
Another interesting point is that the pain experienced in tension-type headaches is also usually steady and doesn’t pulse.
Leading Causes of a Tension Headache
So, where’s this problem coming from? It could be something as simple as texting and desk-work.
Texting, sitting hunched over a desk and driving all put you in a slumped, forward-head posture. This applies excessive stress to your neck, tightening the muscles and putting pressure on your spine.
Your body is not designed for long work hours and commutes – this contributes to shortening of the chest muscles (rolling in of the shoulders) and stretching of the neck muscles.
The problem with this hunched posture in the ‘upper cross’ is that it traps you in a cycle of tightness and dysfunction that can last a lifetime, so it’s important to intervene sooner rather than later.
Traditional Methods aren’t Working
If you’ve been to a GP with a tension headache, you’ll know that medication is often prescribed.
This approach to pain is a band-aid: it deals with the symptoms, but not the cause.
There are also associated risks and side-effects that range from dependency (if you’re not addressing the root-cause) to digestive system damage.
We know that over the counter and prescribed medications can have a place, however depending on the underlying cause and the severity of symptoms, below are other treatment and prevention options to consider for long-term benefits:
- Reducing stress through a good work life balance
- Ensuring you get enough rest, sleep and regular exercise
- Psychological treatment for anxiety
- Physiological treatment such as relaxation techniques including breathing exercises, neck and shoulder massage and physiotherapy.
A Better Way: Treating Headaches with Physiotherapy
We believe that working with the body can contribute far better results than working against the body!
Therefore, we combine trigger point and manual therapy to help alleviate pain and reduce overall tightness followed by bespoke programs of strengthening and stretching exercises to improve overall posture and muscle control.
If you’re dealing with tension headaches, the last thing you need is another headache with your treatment.
If you are looking for a non-invasive, drug-free approach that works with your body, rather than against it, give us a call at The Brisbane Spine Clinic. We look forward to hearing from you.
*Please note, this blog is general in nature and we do recommend talking to your general practitioner who may then refer you to The Brisbane Spine Clinic.