By Dr Olivia White (Osteopath)
Headaches come in different forms and can present in many different ways. It is important to get a diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment plan from a qualified health professional, such as your local GP or Osteopath so that you can learn how best to prevent headaches from becoming chronic and debilitating.
Here are a few examples of the more common types of headache presentations.
Tension Type Headaches (TTH) are the most common type and feel like a tight aching sensation throughout the head. The tenderness/tightness may travel down the back of your neck, into your temples or even into your shoulders. Stress is usually the main trigger for this type of headache.
Cervicogenic Headaches generally present as referred pain from somewhere else in the body. The ‘trigger point’ is often a tight muscle or inflammation in the neck or shoulders. Other symptoms can include a restricted range of motion, muscle spasms through the upper neck, shoulders and jaw, and a shooting pain towards the base of your skull.
Cluster Headaches can be quite excruciating and, as the name suggests, appear in clusters of frequent episodes that can last several days or, in some cases, weeks. The pain usually presents behind one eye or side of the face and is often accompanied by excessive tearing and redness of the eye. Thankfully, the long remission period for Cluster Headaches mean you may not experience any pain for several months or even years in between episodes.
Migraines are usually more intense compared with the headaches described above. They may include a pulsating sensation deep within the head and the pain can last for several hours or sometimes even days. Migraines normally affect one side of the head and other symptoms may include sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting. Migraines generally present in two different forms – with or without aura. Migraine with aura can include a tingling sensation on one side of the face or down the arm. Your Osteopath can help in the management of chronic migraines, however, in the case of Migraine with aura, you should also discuss these symptoms with your GP.
How can an Osteopath help with headaches?
After completing a thorough history and examination, your Osteopath will develop a personalised treatment plan that may include any of the following:
- Manual therapy to help release the tight muscles (trigger points) causing the headache. Specific manipulation and articulation techniques will also help improve mobility through the joints of your head, neck and jaw.
- Exercise rehabilitation can include simple stretches or strengthening exercises to improve the stability or mobility of the muscles around your head, neck and shoulders.
- Lifestyle advice can play an important role in helping to manage stress levels. Improving your work/life balance, diet and exercise levels can make a big difference in preventing the aggravating causes of your headaches.