How to Treat Neck Pain and Headaches
Pain of any type that occurs in any part of the head is called a headache. There are many different types of headaches, with just as many causes. The International Headache Society describes several different categories of headache:
- Migraine and cluster
- Secondary headaches from an underlying condition, such as fever, infectious disease, sinus disorder, or in rare cases, a tumor or more serious illness
- Cranial neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches
Most headaches are harmless and resolve on their own, although severe headaches that recur frequently can affect your ability to do your daily activities and can reduce your quality of life.
There is effective treatment for almost every type of headache. The challenge lies in determining the type of headache, its cause, and in developing an appropriate treatment plan that will reduce both its frequency and intensity. Physical therapists can help determine the type of headache you have and are experts in managing pain from tension-type headaches.
What are Headaches?
Headaches, like back pain, are one of the most common of all physical complaints and can be one of the most frustrating to manage. Pain of any type that occurs in any part of the head is called a headache.Tension-type headaches (also called muscle-spasm headaches) are the most common types of headaches in adults. They may be the result of a neck or jaw problem, poor posture, fatigue, or stress.A problem in the neck, head, or jaw–such as an injury or arthritis–can lead to tension in the muscles at the back of the head and to increased pressure on the nerves to the face and head. Poor posture can cause these muscles to become overworked, which can trigger a headache.
How Does a Neck Headache Feel?
A tension-type headache typically begins at the back of the head and spreads to the top of the head and the eyes. You might feel an increase in facial pain along the cheeks near the jaw bone (temporomandibular joint dysfunction). People often describe a tightness, a sensation of someone tugging on their hair, or a feeling of wearing a tight cap. These headaches can worsen with specific positions–such as sitting at a desk–and may ease with rest.
What is the Best Physical Therapy Treatment to Help Resolve Headaches?
Your physical therapist will conduct a thorough examination that includes a review of your health history. Your therapist will ask you questions and will perform tests to determine the most likely cause of your headaches. For example, your therapist might:
- Ask you:
- to recall any previous injuries to your neck, head, or jaw
- the location, nature, and behavior of your pain and other symptoms
- to draw your areas of pain on a body diagram
- Perform tests of muscle strength and sensation
- Examine your posture when sitting, standing, and performing various activities
- Measure the range of motion of your neck, shoulders, and other relevant parts of your body
- Use manual therapy to evaluate the mobility of the joints and muscles in your neck
If it appears that you do have tension-type headaches, your physical therapist will work with you to design a plan of care to meet your goals. If the evaluation indicates that you may have a different type of headache–such as sinus, migraine, or cluster headache–your physical therapist likely will refer you to another health care professional for additional diagnostic tests and treatment.
Your physical therapist will work with you to correct the problems that are causing your pain and will help you learn to prevent headaches through simple changes in your posture and lifestyle:
Improve neck mobility. Physical therapists use a specialized technique called manual therapy to increase movement and relieve pain and to stretch the muscles of the back of the neck.
Improve your strength. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to increase the strength of the muscles that help stabilize your upper back and neck to improve your posture and endurance and make it easier for you to sit or stand for longer periods of time without discomfort.
Improve your posture. Physical therapistswill teach you to ways to improve your posture. Whether it is simply pushing your chest out or pulling your shoulder blades backward and together, slight modifications to everyday living can make a vast improvement in posture.
Modify your workstation or home office. Tips may include:
- using a headset instead of a regular phone
- adjusting your computer screen so that it is no lower than the level of your eyes
- finding an appropriate desk chair
- adjusting the position of your computer mouse
Get pain free so you can get back doing the actives you love with ease, without headaches and neck pain.
We believe in solving the root cause of your pain and our treatment approach will save you time and money!
Here is what others have said about their experience:
For 20 years I have suffered with a constant headache, cervical pain, and exhaustion from the pain. This was due to 2 car accidents that caused 3 herniated discs in my upper neck area. Through the years I have done literally EVERYTHING! I have been to chiropractors, did traction, TENS unit, acupuncture, nerve blocks more than once, physical therapy several times, and wore neck braces. NONE of these things helped at all, and actually some made it worse. The only help has been seeing my massage therapist once a week and pain medication. I continued to be active since all 3 neurosurgeons I have seen told me I must keep going. None of them felt surgery was an option. However, there were some days where I had to just stop and lay in bed for a day or two to let things “settle down”. In the past couple of years it has been getting worse so more pain meds which is not a good thing. I really could not imagine what I could do to help nor could I fathom living the rest of my life with this chronic pain. My massage therapist at Vitality Anew, LeeAnne Trimble, heard about Ron and shared with me I might try him. I had nothing to lose so I started seeing Ron. I am probably going to be one of his best testimonies because my pain is nearly gone. Ron has done some manipulation techniques, strengthening exercises, and some minor adjustments that have made the difference. Now that I am 99% better I have been able to play tennis without medication for days before and after, I have gotten back to sewing, I have been able to sleep better, and have definitely had more energy. I do a lot of work at my computer for our custom home business. Now I am able to do that without being in misery. My range of motion has increased tremendously. Though I still have a small amount of pain which Ron would like to see gone, I am so thankful to be able to have such a tiny amount that I hardly notice it. The headaches are completely gone. He has definitely been a miracle worker and answer to prayer for me!
I ended going to Pursuit Physical Therapy after a recommendation from a friend. I had chronic pain for over 7 years and had tried doctors, acupuncture, stretching and traditional physical therapy but, nothing worked. After my first appointment and a thorough evaluation, I was offered encouragement and hope by Cathy. She was able to explain a course of treatment and provide me with a timeframe with which I would begin to see improvements. Within a few visits I was able to sleep at night and experienced less pain throughout the day. With Cathy’s help and patience not only am I free of chronic pain, but I have greater mobility, flexibility, and strength.
Ron and Cathy are great at Pursuit Physical Therapy. They take the time to diagnose you and listen to your concerns. I had been at 3 different places for physical therapy after my accident and Pursuit is hands down the best PT in Orlando. They were able to get me walking and functioning again. My pain went from a 8 to a 3 in two weeks. They go to the source of the pain and correct it. They only work one on one, so your treatment is customized to your injury. I have referred other friends and family to Pursuit and all of them were treated and fixed in just a few visits. Their goal is to get your injury treated quickly so you can achieve your goals. I will always go to Pursuit first when I have an injury.
Getting started is simple. One phone call is all it takes to discuss our treatments options that avoid risky surgery, painful injections, and expensive pain medications.