What are tension headaches and how can they be treated?

Tension headache

There are many types of headaches (over 300 according to the international headache society), and they are not an easy thing to categorise.

Traditionally it was believed that headaches were caused by changes in the blood vessels supplying the head but now neurologists are suggesting that stiffness and tension in the upper back and lower back can certainly significantly contribute to cervicogenic headaches.

Physiotherapy is not helpful for every type but can be with tension or cervicogenic headaches.

What is a tension headache?

These are the most common type and can present as pain across the neck, either side of the head or at the front of the head above the eyes.  They are usually described as mild to moderate in severity, do not normally warrant time off work but can be associated with other symptoms such as an aversion to light and nausea.

Different types of head ache can co-exist with or without migraine. Unfortunately, X-rays and scans are not always helpful in understanding the type of headache but can rule out more serious causes isuch as a tumour or an aneurysm.

Physiotherapy can be helpful in the treatment of tension headaches, using manual therapy and exercises to improve movement dysfunctions in the neck and upper back and these exercises are very often associated with improving sitting posture.

There are other factors which may also contribute such as stress, chronic pain elsewhere, anxiety, certain foods, dehydration, poor sleep and hormonal imbalances which are also helpful to understand when considering the type and the best treatment for the headache.

If you’re worried about headaches or tension in the neck and upper back, get in touch to speak to one of our physios.

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