Some people mistakenly believe that “tension headache” refers literally to pain caused by emotional stress. In fact, the term refers to the muscle tension or spasms, at the back of the head that leads to head pain. Yet although feeling tense can certainly lead to muscle spasm, other issues — such as poor posture, injury or arthritis — are also common culprits.
Are You a Good Candidate for Physical Therapy to Reduce Headaches?
While physical therapy may have indirect benefits for people with migraines or other headaches, people who suffer from tension headaches are the most likely candidates for pain relief through PT.
A tension headache often feels “tight,” and starts at the back of your head, spreading to your eye area, forehead and jawline. This type of pain is a chain-reaction caused by spasms in the muscles at the base of your head, which puts pressure on related nerves — ultimately leading to a headache.
Physical Therapy to the Rescue
At your first appointment, your physical therapist (PT) will walk you through your symptoms to verify the likely cause of your headaches. Some types of headaches, such as sinus, might be better addressed through different treatment. After verifying that muscle tension seems to be leading to your headaches, your therapist can begin targeted treatment.
Building strength in your upper torso and neck is a crucial component of reducing tension headaches. Exercise therapy, directed by your physical therapist, will help strengthen the muscles that support the back of your head, so that they will be less likely to go into spasm and trigger sensitive nerves.
Hands-on therapy, also known as manual therapy, helps stretch out neck muscles just under the back of your head. This improved mobility reduces the types of spasm that lead to tension headaches. Physical therapists use a series of gentle, controlled movements to slide neck muscles, improving elasticity.
Aside from helping you work your body in the most advantageous way to eliminate future headaches, your physical therapist can also educate you on how to improve your posture. Minor modifications in how you sit and stand will reduce pressure in sensitive areas.
PT can also include a walk-through or photo examination of your home and work areas. Computer screens are often situated too low to prevent neck strain, for example. Such factors as where your phone, keyboard and touchpad are situated, as well as the height of your chair, can be improved to further reduce your incidences of headache.
Contact Elliott Physical Therapy in Dorchester by calling 617-506-7210, Milton at 617-696-8141 and North Attleboro at 508-316-0559.