HOW A PHYSICAL THERAPIST CAN HELP! There is building evidence that physical therapy significantly reduces the symptoms of the headaches listed above. One large-scale study in Spine Journal showed that high-velocity, low amplitude thrust techniques combined with exercise improved the frequency, intensity and duration of cervicogenic headaches after 7 weeks. Another recent large-scale study showed that stretching and strengthening exercises prescribed by physical therapists improved headache symptoms by 69%. A review of all research on this topic up to 2004 demonstrates that joint mobilization and exercise combined reduce headaches and pain caused by neck joint and muscle dysfunction. The evidence is growing, and physical therapists use these established hands-on techniques and exercises to reduce headaches and help return patients to pain-free function.
HEADACHES TREATED BY PHYSICAL THERAPY
CERVICOGENIC HEADACHE: These headaches begin at the back of the neck on one side only and begin to spread toward the front of the head. They are aching, deep and continuous and may change in intensity. Lasting for up to 3 days, they may be caused by poor posture, weak or tight muscles, prior neck injuries and limited neck range of motion. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, facial swelling, increased pain with neck movement and shoulder pain.
This type can occur on both sides of the head simultaneously and are often described as though there is a “vice around the head.” They can occur intermittently, on and off, up to 15 days out of a month for 12-72 hours at a time. They may be caused by stress, anxiety, depression, emotions, muscle tenderness, sleep deprivation
and snoring. Other symptoms include sensitivity to light or sounds, muscle tenderness around the head and tight muscles.
This type of migraine headache begins on one side in the front or side of the head and may shift sides. It is a pulsating headache that can last for 8 hours to multiple days. Usually there is a family
history of these headaches and are most common in females from 15-65 years old. It can be caused by vascular issues and is often triggered by stress and high blood pressure. Common migraines build slowly and increase with exertion. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, light and sound sensitivity, and increased yawning. This type of headache is also treated by positional changes, medication and stress relief.
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