“AHHHH ... MY HEAD HURTS!”
Do you have throbbing, pounding, dull, or constricting headaches? Are they recurrent? If so, you are not alone in your struggle. Headaches are very common among all ages and walks of life. Headache sufferers crave an understanding of their problem and effective treatment.
All headaches are not created equal. They have different qualities and locations depending on the source of pain. Headaches are defined and classified for better understanding and effective treatment for these problems. Three of the most common types of recurrent headaches are tension-type, migraine, and cervicogenic.
The term “cervicogenic” stems from the two words cervical (meaning neck) and genic (meaning genesis or originating). Therefore the pain from a cervicogenic headache results from problems in the cervical spine or neck.
How do neck problems cause headaches? Good question. The neck is loaded with nerves that travel to different parts of your body. The nerves relay messages to help us move and feel. Some of the nerves in the upper neck travel to the head. Therefore a problem in the joints or soft tissue of the upper neck may be felt as a pain in the head.
Cervicogenic headaches generally hurt in the upper portions of the neck, just under the skull. The pain may eventually reside in the back of the head and reach over the top of the head toward the eye. Pain located behind or above the eye is also common. Because the pain begins in the cervical spine, neck movements may be restricted or stiff, and movement often aggravates the head pain.
Physical therapy can offer relief to this subgroup of headache suffers. Physical therapists are trained to identify the type of headache. If the headache can be identified as a cervicogenic type, the therapist can provide individualized treatment aimed at the neck. Spinal manipulative therapy, exercise, dry needling and education have been shown to be an effective intervention in reducing headache intensity, frequency, and duration. Many times, medication can be avoided altogether with physical therapy intervention. If the headache is not cervicogenic, your therapist will promptly send you to the medical professional best suited to treat the problem.
The aim of physical therapy is to provide treatment in the clinic and education. We want to teach you how to manage your headache if it returns and care for your one and only body.
If you have a headache and want to know if physical therapy can help, call your physical therapist.
Jennifer Byrne is a physical therapist and is the clinic director at KORT Owensboro.