Headaches will affect up to 96% of us in our lives at one stage or another. While most require time, patience, some medications or a doctor, there are a few that require the attention of a physio. There are primary and secondary headaches, the former often being of unknown origin.
Secondary headaches can be from serious underlying conditions (tumours, infections, substance abuse) or from other musculoskeletal structures like your ears, nose, teeth and neck.
It is estimated that up to 15-20% of all headaches are actually caused by pain referring from the neck, otherwise called a cervicogenic headache. Here are a few ways you can tell things are being set off by your neck:
• Your headache is accompanied or precipitated by pain in your neck. Pain is referred to the head from the upper three vertebrae of the neck, so this is usually where the irritation arises. Some people will feel it along the base of the skull or the back of their head first.
• Neck movements aggravate your head pain. End of range or awkward movements will often set off your pain, and you may also notice your range of movement is lessened.
• Pushing on points of the neck brings on your headache. Again, this is typically over the top three vertebrae of your neck.
• The headache pain is usually moderate to severe and is not “throbbing” in nature like some headaches.
• Pain is usually on one side of the head and can often occur in the face or around the eye. Described as pain in the periorbital area, this is a common referral pattern for a cervicogenic headache.
• There are no visual disturbances, nausea or vomiting. A cervicogenic headache typically isn’t associated with any changes in your vision or other autonomic symptoms like migraines and other headaches can do. If you are experiencing these, you are better to chat to your GP.
If these symptoms sound like you, get in touch with one of the team at Healthzone Physiotherapy for a full assessment of your headaches. We will use the manual therapy techniques necessary to manage your pain, provide you with exercises and a management plan. If we don’t believe your headaches are cervicogenic, we will refer you to your GP for further assessment.
Contact HealthZone Physiotherapy today on: (09) 477 2098