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Pain 101: Headache Pain


Headaches are a complex and often confusing form of pain.  What most people don’t realize is that the majority of headaches are caused by tight muscles, stiff joints and poor posture.  Treatment for headaches focuses on improving mobility of the joints or muscles of the neck, increasing strength of the neck stabilizers and improving posture.

Pain 101: Intro To Headache Pain

Are you experiencing headache pain? Click on this video to learn more about headache pain and steps you can take to decrease your pain.



Tension Headaches

Tension Headaches

Affect both sides of the head, shoulders and neck.  Symptoms may include persistent pain and feeling of pressure around the forehead.  They can be caused by repetitive use of the arms, emotional or physical stress, poor posture while sitting, computer use and work activities.

Cervical Headaches

Cervical Headaches

Have symptoms similar to the migraine, but the ache begins in the base of the skull and can move from place to place around the head.  A cervical headache is caused by prolonged stress to the first three cervical joints of the neck.

Postural Dysfunction

Postural Dysfunction

is a common cause of headaches.  The increased use of computers and extended periods of sitting often leads to muscle imbalances such as tightness in the chest and shoulders and weakness in the neck and postural muscles. Over time this can lead to a rounded shoulder and forward head posture which may result  in joint irritation and significant headaches.


The solution to your headaches depends on the type of headaches you are experiencing their related cause. The first step is to consult with your doctor and discuss their recommendations for treating your headaches. Your doctor may recommend restrictions on specific activities, medication and/or and physical therapy. You can try the following steps now to help alleviate your pain.


It is important when you are experiencing a headache to limit your activity and rest so that you do not aggravate it.

Cold/Heat Packs

Cold or heat packs can be applied to your upper neck or base of your skull and neck to help with your pain and decrease irritation and inflammation in the joints and muscles. To prevent damage to skin and surrounding tissue, heat/cold packs should only be applied in 15 minute intervals.



If you don’t have increased pain with movement, stretching and increasing the range of motion of your neck and shoulders can be the first step in helping to loosen up your neck muscles and decrease the pain.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy consists of hands-on treatment to loosen muscles and joints, education on proper posture and movement to decrease pain, instruction on stretching and strengthening exercises to restore mobility and strength, and modalities such as electrical stimulation, cold/heat packs and ultrasound.

Exercises for headache pain

Following are a few exercises you can perform that may help alleviate pain. Please go to LIFE+ for more videos that may help you. Please consult your physician before trying these, and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort.

What is Physical Therapy?

  • Physical therapists are trained, licensed specialists who help individuals develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and function. Physical therapists specialize in helping to control pain and restore flexibility and strength to the spine to allow you to enjoy your life, pain free. Discuss with your doctor if physical therapy is a good option for your headaches.

Treatment Approach

  • Medical research has shown physical therapy to be an effective treatment with positive long term outcomes for patients suffering from headaches and neck pain. A successful treatment plan consists of the following: hands-on therapy, an exercise program, posture & body mechanics training, and modalities (cold/heat, ultrasound electrical stimulation).

Hands-On Therapy

Physical therapists are trained to apply specialized, hands-on techniques that help relax tight muscles in the neck and head and restore joint movement in the cervical spine.

Exercise Program

A patient-specific exercise program focusing on relieving head and neck tension and cervical mobility and strength will be designed to help you return to your optimal daily activity without pain.

Posture & Body Mechanics Training

Physical therapists are experts at movement analysis. Your physical therapist will help you improve your posture and body mechanics for your daily activities.


Cold/heat, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation are used to decrease pain and relax the muscles.