Pain 101: Headache Pain
What is 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.
Types of Headache Pain
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 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 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.
STEPS TO HEADACHE PAIN RELIEF
It is important when you are experiencing a headache to limit your activity and rest so that you do not aggravate it.
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 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.
HEADACHE PAIN EXERCISES
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.