Fix That Aching Head

If you have a head, you’ve probably had a headache.  Sorry to get scientific, but facts are facts.  For most people, headaches go away on their own or with an Aspirin and an ice pack.  No harm done.

But sometimes headaches linger, possibly for a couple days or weeks at a time.  What happens then?  Do you just keep hoping for best?  Keep taking medicine that isn’t fixing the problem?

Figuring out the cause of the headache generally makes getting rid of it a lot easier.  Headaches can actually be categorized based on the presumed source of the pain, and each category tends to present in a different way.  Some categories include tension type, migraines, and cervicogenic (meaning the headache pain is coming from the neck), but there are others.

Treatment for the headache will depend on the category, but there are some things that you can do that will generally help.  Before you try any treatments, however, pay attention to any changes in your vision, ability to talk clearly, nausea… anything that just seems weird.  If you’re having any symptoms in addition to a headache, it is strongly recommended that you see your primary care physician.

With that said, here are some self-treatments for a headache:

  • Trigger point release to any tender spots on the neck or near skull.  This generally feels like an extra firm massage, but start off very gentle and pay attention to your headache as you increase pressure.  If you find a muscle on your head or neck that increases your headache, try working on it a bit and seeing if your symptoms improve after a 30 seconds or so of working on that spot.  If you find something hard (bone), don’t bother pressing on it.  Be careful on the sides of the neck, as there are arteries and veins you don’t want to be pressing on.
  • Postural awareness is key.  Posture often isn’t the issue, it is the amount of time spent in a posture.  If your headaches get worse during certain activities like typing, driving, etc., pay attention to where your head and shoulders are positioned.  Minimizing time spent in poor positions can make a world of difference to some overstressed tissues.
  • Manage stress.  Yeah, easier said than done.  Deep breathing techniques have been shown to reduce stress by working on the arousal center in the brain.  Turning off the brain for even a minute of deep breathing can help relieve stress.  Here’s a video that quickly explains a good way to do some deep breathing through your diaphragm.
  • Physical Therapy is one of the quickest ways to treat many kinds of headaches.  Headaches can frequently be caused by mechanical issues in the head, neck, or shoulders, and PT can help resolve those problems.

If you try these options and don’t see any relief, it’s generally a good idea to follow up with a PT or your primary care physician.  PTs are trained to be able to refer out if they find that your history or symptoms don’t match up with what can usually be treated.  So if you have a lingering headache, PT may be your best option for the quickest treatment.

For more in depth reading, Physiopedia has a ton of information on headaches.  The website is intended for Physical Therapists and students, so it may get a little in depth, but it’s a great source of information on headaches (and other stuff).

Got questions?  Feel limited in what you’re able to do?  The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to be limitless. Contact us to connect with on of our PTs. Or follow us on Facebook.

***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice.  Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.

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