Headaches and Migraines

Headaches and migraines can affect all of the population. Headaches alone affect almost two thirds of the population. Headaches appear as pain in the head, in or around the eyes or ears and behind the back of the head. There are many different types of headaches, and many different causes. There is significant clinical evidence and research to confirm that many headaches arise from tight muscles and stiff joints of the upper neck. These headaches are known as tension headaches or cervicogenic headaches.

relief from migraines with physio

Migraine headaches are another type of headache, which can be triggered by many factors including alcohol, caffeine, preservatives in food, hormonal changes, stress, sleep disturbances, perfumes and smoking. Tight muscles and stiff joints of the upper neck can also trigger migraine headaches. Along with a headache, migraine sufferers can also experience nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to bright lights, sensitivity to loud music and blurred vision.

Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy has helped many clients from Gungahlin and the wider Canberra community with headaches and migraine pain syndromes.

A tension headache is thought to be due to muscle tightness in the scalp, forehead and the back of the neck as well as stiff joints of the upper neck, resulting in referred pain into the head. This can be triggered by:

  • physical or emotional stress
  • muscle tension of the upper neck
  • malalignments of the neck joints
  • fatigue and cold
  • poor sitting posture with a poked chin neck position
  • previous spinal injury such as a whiplash injury in a motor vehicle accident

Tension headache symptoms may include:

  • Dull and persistent pain that may vary in intensity (mild to moderate) and is usually felt on both sides of the head or neck (some however experience jabs of sudden pain in the head)
  • A constant, tight, heavy or pressing sensation on or around the head
  • Tautness and tenderness of the scalp, neck and shoulder muscles
  • Neck movements (active or passive) restricted by muscular stiffness and discomfort
  • Ache in the upper back
  • Recurrent and episodic pain (often in association with stress)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disturbed sleep patterns


How do you know if your headache is coming from your neck?

  • Your doctor has cleared you of any other factors that may be contributing to your headache
  • Your neck pain radiates from the back to the front of your head
  • You have pain between your shoulder blades
  • Your headache is worsened by neck movement
  • Your headache is worsened by keeping your neck in the one position for long periods (driving, watching TV or computer use)
  • Your headache is worsened with poor sitting posture with your chin poked forward
  • Your headache is eased by pressure at the base of your skull
  • This type of headache may not always be relieved by medication
  • You have a long history of neck pain and headache


How can we help your headache pain?

In most cases, physiotherapy alone offers an effective solution for tension headaches. On your first visit, our physios will establish a correct diagnosis to direct the most effective care to your headache pain. Establishing the correct diagnosis early is imperative as several injuries mimic symptoms yet have different treatment protocols. We use our unique ‘phase-based rehab system’ to ensure all aspects of a full and lasting recovery are delivered. We will tailor a treatment plan to suit your needs, with you involved in the decision making to make sue we address your biggest concerns. Our physios will use hands on therapy techniques to improve upper neck joint mobility and muscle flexibility. We will nearly always at each session provide home exercises of stretches and strength work so that you keep improving between sessions. We can improve your posture with advice on the correct posture position, and the use of lumbar supports and posture braces. A cervical pillow assessment can help ensure that you have the proper pillow to obtain an optimal neck position during sleeping. Early treatment will be focused on reducing pain and regaining normal neck range of motion. The physiotherapist will then prescribe an exercise program to improve the strength and coordination of your deep neck stabilisers and upper back muscles, which are important for preventing re-injury. Hydrotherapy, massage, dry needling and our gym may also be used for best outcome. Towards the end of the treatment program you will be given prevention strategies to keep the headache pain away. The sooner we begin your headache rehabilitation the faster your recovery and back to the things you love doing.


Why choose us for your headache pain?

  • We listen, we care and we get results
  • We provide physiotherapy to fix the cause of your headaches and not just the symptoms
  • Our physios have extensive experience in dealing with tension headaches and migraines
  • We can advise you of the ideal workstation set-up to help your headache pain
  • We can correct your posture in sitting, standing and lying.
  • We can help improve spinal alignment and neck range of motion
  • Our therapists have completed further education on best practice headache management
  • We can prescribe practitioner only natural supplements for pain and inflammation
  • Our gym helps with upper back late stage strength rehabilitation
  • Our massage therapists can help sort out any tight muscles
  • We can provide dry needling for pain management and accelerated healing
  • Our physios can prescribe a home exercise program of stretches and strength exercises
  • We can refer you for further investigations such as x-ray or MRI if required
  • Our therapists have been recognised for their expertise having been national sporting team consultants
  • We provide you with the tools to look after your health long after you leave our care
  • We have lumbar supports and posture support braces to help improve your sitting posture
  • We have cervical pillows to help improve headaches associated with a poor sleeping position.