Nobody likes having a headache, but did you know that some headaches can be caused by musculoskeletal problems?
Headaches are a complicated subject area, with many potential causes. There are two types of headaches that us osteopaths can help with, tension and cervicogenic.
Tension type headaches are reported to be the most common type of headache, with over 20% of the world’s population suffering from them at some point! Tension headaches are often described as feeling like a clamp around the head, most commonly affecting the back of the head and neck and over the top of the head to the forehead, temples and eyes. These headaches most commonly affect both sides of your head. Commonly brought on by stress, they can last anywhere from half an hour to a couple of days. Unlike some other types of headaches, they aren’t accompanied by visual disturbances, nausea or muscle weakness.
To treat tension headaches an osteopath will use a variety of techniques focussed on reducing the tightness in certain muscles in your neck and head, often the headache will feel much improved after treatment, but patients commonly come back the next week with the problem once more. This is because the factor that is causing tension hasn’t been addressed. Here at Alpha Health we will look for the root cause of the tension as well as treating the symptoms, hopefully leading to a long term resolution of the issue.
The second type I mentioned, cervicogenic, is slightly more complicated. Cervicogenic literally translates to “originating from the cervical spine”, cervical spine being the anatomical term for your neck.
Cervicogenic headaches occur because the upper vertebrae of the neck share whats known as a pain nucleus with the trigeminal nerve, which then sends the messages to the brain. The trigeminal nerve is a nerve that supplies a large portion of your face. Because of the shared nucleus the pain can sometimes be misunderstood as coming from the face, when in reality the problem is in the neck. A common cause of this problem is poor posture within the neck.
Cervicogenic headaches will normally only affect one side of your head, as a result of the fact that the nerves mentioned above are pairs, one on each side. So a right sided neck problem will cause a right sided headache and vice versa.
To treat cervicogenic headaches an osteopath will begin by using hands on techniques to relieve your pain. These may include manipulations, articulations and soft tissue massage on the muscles in your upper neck. They will also combine this treatment with an exercise program, together the exercise and hands on treatment will help to address the posture of the neck and therefore relieve the pain.
There are many other types of headaches, some more serious than others. We are trained to look for these more serious headaches and will direct you to the relevant healthcare provider if we think that you would be better cared for elsewhere.
If you have any questions or queries, or think that we can help with your headache, don’t hesitate to give us a call!