Physiotherapy for Headaches

Headaches – Why don’t we treat them properly?

So you suffer from headaches? It’s a shame that you have never found a real solution to your pain! We hear the reasons why you may feel like you’ll never get relief. It’s the stress of work, the kids (and probably husband!), I’ve always had them, etc, but it just doesn’t need to be this way. Many headaches are simply the symptom of a grumpy neck and the pain itself is just a reminder that it is currently not coping well.

So let’s go ahead and debunk some myths surrounding the dreaded headache and get you on the right path!

1. Alignment has nothing to do with it

“My neck is out” – Please put it back in, then read on!
I’m sorry to say this, but anyone telling you that a joint in your neck is “out” or not aligned correctly is not giving you a very good explanation of what is happening. Some of you may think well I get what they mean when they say this and I know there really isn’t anything out of place… but honestly, that terminology doesn’t help you find a solution, so even if it’s a cute way to simplify things, its not that useful!

You may have been told that you have a slight curvature or rotation in your neck, so this is why it’ll never be the same again, but the truth is you have most likely had this for years and it is not the reason for the recent headaches. Even with ongoing headaches, you would still have some good days and your neck alignment is probably the same on those days too. Now this is mainly the fault of health professionals who I wouldn’t say are intentionally spinning lies, but they just may not have a great understanding of pain and function themselves. A lot of research has changed over the years and if they’re not up to date with it all, it’s easy to send the wrong messages out to you!

So the take home message here for you is that the spine does not have a perfect alignment, and the aim of treatment should not be to reduce angles or curvatures!

2. We strengthen our arms, our legs, but not our necks.

When you typically see someone for your neck pain or headaches, there is a lot of manual therapy or hands on work involved. Now I’ll admit this can be great in the short term initially to decrease your pain, muscle spasm and protective mechanisms around the sore areas, however what seems to be missed is the crucial long term strategy – STRENGTH TRAINING!

Many therapists will be super gentle with your neck and, although I’m not trying to promote aggressive massage or mobilisation, we can definitely be a bit more aggressive with our exercises and strength training once the initial symptoms are reduced. The key reasons you have ongoing or reoccurring headaches is that the muscles around your neck and shoulders are not coping with the demands you are putting them through. They are getting fatigued, and when something is fatigued, it gets tight (and sore!). This may be due to sustained postures or simply positions which may be a requirement of your work or sport. I won’t even say you have weak neck muscles, they just don’t have the strength or endurance to cope – essentially they need to get stronger and “fitter”.

Commonly headaches and neck pains are treated with gentle stretches or simple movements in all directions. This will help regain a little bit of movement (maybe) but will not do anything to help you cope with the demands of every day activities and function. Now if you have a serious or reoccurring knee injury, I feel that you would be pretty annoyed if all you got from a health professional was simple bending and straightening movements, but this is what both you and health professionals currently accept when looking at your neck. If you need your neck muscles to cope with certain movements or sustained positions, then you need to train for it! Going back to the knee example, if you need to run for 60mins, and you can only do 20mins right now, then you will look to train and get stronger and fitter – the same applies here for your neck!

I challenge you to take action against
your headaches!

If you have tried “physio” before, and this involved gentle stretches – Then you haven’t tried real physio yet!

If you have tried “physio” before, with exercises which only involved a theraband – Then guess what? You haven’t tried real physio yet!

If you have tried “physio” before, and you were given traction and a heat pack – Then you know what’s coming! You haven’t tried real physio yet!!!

This is an amazing opportunity to see what can and should be done for your headaches and you owe it to yourself to get a proper assessment and a proper management plan developed. Have you ever heard of a rugby player with their thick necks missing a game due to a headache…. me neither!

I’m so confident I can help you that I’d love to chat with you personally about your neck and headaches! Just enter your details in the field below and a rough time that you’d like me to contact you and I’ll be more than happy to explain how we can have you headache free and enjoying your life!

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