Headache - Differences and treatment

headache treatment

Headaches are one of the most common conditions in our society, with most people experiencing them many times during their lives. They are a constant major cause for people calling in sick to their workplace and school. 

 

Headaches, when frequent, can really negatively affect someone’s life and feeling of wellbeing. 

Types of headaches

We can separate headaches in two main groups. 

 

Primary headaches: Those not due to another medical condition. Examples of these are – cluster headache, pressure headache, migraines. 

 

Secondary headaches: When they go hand in hand with another medical condition.

Examples of these are – Sinus congestion, tumor, High blood pressure, head injury, trauma. 

Headaches are one of the most common conditions in our society, with most people experiencing them many times during their lives. They are a constant major cause for people calling in sick to their workplace and school. 

 

Headaches, when frequent, can really negatively affect someone’s life and feeling of wellbeing. 

Types of headaches

We can separate headaches in two main groups. 

 

Primary headaches: Those not due to another medical condition. Examples of these are – cluster headache, pressure headache, migraines. 

 

Secondary headaches: When they go hand in hand with another medical condition.

Examples of these are – Sinus congestion, tumor, High blood pressure, head injury, trauma. 

headache treatment

Causes of a headache

There are different explanations for headaches and we’ll be looking at the role soft tissue plays here, both muscles and fascia

 

The majority of headaches that people experience throughout their life are caused by the soft tissue.

 

The soft tissue gets “upset” for different reasons. Poor diet and hydration, stress, tissue overload or wear & tear are some of the soft tissue stressors. We can easily make a big impact on most of them so let’s have a closer look at them. 

 

Stress: We all experience stress in today’s society, some more than others.

 

Our soft tissue, specially the fascia, is really sensitive and reactive to stress. Some recent studies suggest that the fascia responds to chemical signals present in the environment surrounding it. Stress triggers the release of stress hormones which then affect the behaviour of our fascia.

 

During our treatment we focus of releasing the fascia. We also focus on increasing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is our restoration system.

 

With our busy lives and constant over stimulation of the nervous system we spend less and less time in this natural resting or restoration mode, not allowing for the natural repairing to happen as much and as often as we need it to and in exchange spending too much time in fight or flight mode, with stress hormones running high and causing our fascia to get inflamed. 

 

 

Tissue overload: Another major cause of soft tissue related headaches. By exerting too much load or too much over too long a period of time. Bad posture or repetitive motion are two examples that would fall under this category. 

 

When there’s tissue overload, the muscles tend to develop trigger points or knots. 

These trigger points can cause pain and restrictions. When they are actively causing pain, this can be local to where the trigger point is or radiating somewhere else in the body. 

 

In case of headaches, there’s quite a big list of neck, shoulder and head muscles that are known to refer pain in the form of a headache, each them felt slightly in a different pattern of location.

 

It’s therefore important to identify the exact location of the headache as accurately as possible. The therapist will be able to cross reference that information with the trigger point referral pain pattern maps in order to locate the muscle or muscles and structures that need treatment. 

Simons, D. G., Simons, L. S., & Travell, J. G. (1999). Travell & Simons’ myofascial pain and dysfunction: The trigger point manual. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.

Simons, D. G., Simons, L. S., & Travell, J. G. (1999). Travell & Simons’ myofascial pain and dysfunction: The trigger point manual. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.

Independently of whether the soft tissue is “upset” due to emotional stress of tissue overload the list of the most common muscles that refer pain in the form of a headache is the same and as follows (see also picture above):

 

  • Suboccipitals
  • Splenius Capitis & Cervicis
  • Sternocleidomastoid
  • Masseter
  • Temporalis
  • Upper Trapezius
  • Semispinalis wapitis 

Treatment

In order to treat the headache the therapist will release the trigger points and restrictions in these muscles and myofascial structures over a series of treatments. 

 

The therapist will also work towards identifying and correcting when possible the underlying issue that irritated the tissues in the first place. For example, postural imbalances or stress. 

 

We’ve had people coming in with a 10 year history of frequent migraines, leaving the clinic with no more pain after 4 weekly sessions and exercise rehabilitation. 

 

It doesn’t cease to amaze me how much of an impact two hands can have in someone else’s life.