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Headaches are reported to be the most common pain complaint in the world with 90% of people experiencing them at some stage in life. There are many different types of headaches and physiotherapy can be helpful with headaches that arise from a dysfunction in the joints or muscles in the neck. Some of these can be treated with physiotherapy but if it is your first or worst headache you will need to visit your GP first. Once your GP has cleared you for physiotherapy it would be advisable to start treatment straight away. The types of headaches that can be treated by physiotherapy are called cervicogenic headaches. Cervio-refers to the neck and with this type of headache a dysfunction in the joints and muscles of the neck is present. These structures cause referral pain into the head. These headaches can sometimes be mistaken for bad migraines as they too can give rise to symptoms of nausea and dizziness.

woman with headache

Signs and Symptoms of cerviogenic headaches

You can feel pain or stiffness in your neck. Most commonly on one side but can be found on both sides of the neck. The headache can be quite painful but you should be able to continue with your normal daily activities. NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory) will only give temporary relief but will not deal with why you are getting these headaches. Cervicogenic headaches are commonly seen in patients who have poor posture,desk jobs and stressful lifestyles. A combination of physiotherapy and management of the above will help reduce the intensity and frequency of your headaches and in some cases resolve the ongoing problem that you may have.Your physiotherapist will do a detailed assessment to make sure that your headache can be treated by one of the team. Your physiotherapist will be able to identify the stiff and painful joints in the neck and the over-active tense and tightmuscle of the neck.Treatment will include hand-on treatment such as joint mobilisations to target thestiff joints, manual release of the tight muscle, strengthening programme, dry needling and taping. This treatment approach has been seen to be very successful in treating cervicogenic headaches.

Treatment of headaches at work