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Headaches and Physiotherapy

Most people will suffer from headache at some point in their life. Some of these headaches are more frequent, more intense and more debilitating than others. An accurate diagnosis is therefore very important. This will then lead to the correct treatment and management of headache disorders.

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

At Wellers Hill and Woolloongabba Physio we have a special interest in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of migraine and headache conditions. We feel the importance of an accurate diagnosis leads to much more effective outcomes for headache management as we can address the contributing factors to the ongoing headache and not just provide symptomatic relief. A significant amount of research over the years has occurred and currently there are over 300 causes of headache and migraine. That is a lot of different headaches!

The good news however is that most of these headaches fall into 3 categories:

  • Cervicogenic headache (neck headache)
  • Tension Type Headache
  • Migraine

New research, however, suggests that Headache and Migraine may not be separate entities with different mechanisms, but they are in fact different expressions of the same condition and that condition is a sensitised TCN/Brainstem.

How does this work?

When we have a problem in our neck, perhaps an injury or pathology related to degenerative changes or even just constant postural loads, nerve receptors within the neck muscles and joints send messages to our brain to keep it informed of what is going on.

In this case these messages are more or less telling the brain that there is a threat to the tissue. At this point, you are not yet feeling pain. All these messages go through a central area in the brainstem – TCN

Once the brain receives these messages it then needs to decide what to do with this information, i.e should it make you feel pain or not. It is a commonly thought that this process works the other way around (ie that pain messages start in the tissue and travel up to the brain).

But in fact, pain is 100% produced in your brain.

Usually the brain’s accuracy at sending the pain to the correct area of your body is pretty good. If we injure our neck, we should and do usually feel the pain a t the site of the injury. But a number of factors can alter this accuracy.

It has been found that on some occasions dysfunction in the neck does not produce pain in the neck but in the head! It is therefore well worth having a thorough assessment of your neck to determine if it is contributing to your headache.

Interesting Facts

DID YOU KNOW The majority of Australians throughout their life time will suffer headaches. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey in 1995, almost 15% of the Australian population were taking medication for headaches with higher prevalence in people aged between 25-44. Migraines are less prevalent than headaches however there are almost two million migraine sufferers in Australia. This means that more people suffer from migraine in Australia than diabetes, asthma or coronary heart disease. (Headaches Australia)

Kathy Armstrong and Tim Duffy have a particular interest in the assessment, treatment and management of headache and migraine. They have also both done additional training with the Watson Headache Institute which has a focus in identifying any issues within the upper cervical spine that may be contributing to your headache. Call us at Wellers Hill Physiotherapy 3892 7501 or Woolloongabba Physio 3391 3331 to inquire further about how we can assess and assist in providing better management strategies for your headache.