Headaches are a common issue that can plague everyone from preteens to retirees. However, when recurring tension or stress-related headaches make it difficult to get through your day, physical therapy may be necessary to provide long-lasting pain relief.
Why did my headache develop? The most common type of headache experienced by teens and adults in the tension headache—which is sometimes referred to as a stress-related headache. This type of headache pain occurs when the scalp and neck muscles tense up and then contract.
If you experience tension headaches, you most likely will feel the pain begin at the back of the neck before it climbs up to the top of the head and eventually causes pain and discomfort behind the eyes. It’s also common to experience tension headache pain in the cheeks, jaw, and even down into the shoulders.
Some common causes of a tension headache include:
Anxiety and depression
Wearing hair pulled back tightly or sporting a tight hat
Other common types of headaches that can cause recurring pain and discomfort include the sinus headache, caffeine headaches, migraines, hormonal headaches, post-traumatic headaches, and cluster headaches.
Are you experiencing these symptoms? Stress-related headaches can vary widely in severity, although they’re rarely as debilitating as migraines.
They tend to a generalized ache over a broad region of the head, as opposed to attacking a specific area such as the eye (a trademark of another type of headache called a cluster headache).
The tension that brings them on may stem from emotional stress (if that emotional stress creates chronic neck tightness), but it may also be caused by:
Secondary pain problems such as arthritis in the cervical spine
Repetitive motion or overuse from work or sports activities
“Text neck,” a strain disorder that occurs if you’re always drooping your head forward to look at your smartphone
Weak neck muscles that become fatigued easily
Stress-related headaches that bother you for more than 15 days out of the month for 3 months or more are considered a chronic pain condition.
PT and headaches Physical therapy can help to reduce the pain associated with headaches while working to restore proper function and a full range of motion in the neck and shoulder areas. Typically, there are 2 different types of physical therapy treatments that are ideal for relieving chronic headaches, these include:
Active Physical Therapies
Pain relief exercises
Soft tissue mobilization
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or TENS
Alternating heat and ice therapy
Depending on the severity and cause of your headaches, our physical therapist may suggest a combination of physical therapy treatment methods to provide pain relief. However, because each person responds differently to headache pain, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no “one size fits all” treatment plan.
Because physical therapy targets the muscles and joints, it is an effective treatment option for those who experience tension headaches or stress-related headaches, and headache pain that radiates down into the jaw, neck, and shoulder areas.
Over time, our physical therapist aims to not only reduce your pain but hopefully prevent recurring headaches altogether. The primary goal of physical therapy is to not only provide pain relief but to increase mobility, improve posture, and to help strengthen the muscles that control your neck, shoulders, and upper back areas.
With all physical therapy treatment plans, our patients will receive helpful educational information that will help them to complete pain relief exercises at home to supplement in-office visits.
What else can I gain from a physical therapy treatment plan? The ultimate goal of your physical therapy regimen will be to eliminate your stress-related headaches.
However, in addition to relief, you will gain additional benefits that will likely improve your overall quality of life:
Increased strength: Your therapist will teach you exercises to strengthen your neck and upper back, which will lead to improved posture. With better posture, you will be able to stand and sit longer without experiencing discomfort.
Neck tension relief. You will have better range of motion in your neck and reduced tension, thanks to manual physical therapy techniques applied to the muscles there.
Improved posture. Bad posture is really one of the leading causes of stress-related headaches. If you don’t enjoy good posture throughout the day, it is likely to lead to more generalized aches and pains, as well as the muscle tension that contributes to stress-related headaches.
Relieve your headaches with us If you or a loved one has been suffering from recurring headaches, you can find fast and effective pain relief with regular physical therapy treatment. Interested in learning more about the many benefits of physical therapy for tension headaches? Give us a call.