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Headaches can be caused by a number of medical problems . Many of these problems, including the most common causes of headaches, muscular tension headaches, can be treated by physiotherapy. 
When you visit your physiotherapist, you will be examined to determine if your headaches are caused by a spinal/joint problem, a muscular/soft tissue problem, or a nerve problem.
Treatment usually includes:
- Hands-on treatment such as spinal manipulation/mobilisation
- Massage/Soft tissue techniques to release tight muscles/trigger points
- Techniques to take pressure off a pinched nerve
- Stretches to release tight muscles and nerves
- Posture correction exercises
- Pain relieving modalities including electrotherapy, interferential, ultrasound and heat
- Ergonomic advice for both at home and at work and particularly at the computer and when using other devices

Nearly every adult will have experienced headaches at some time with some people experiencing recurring headaches. What causes headaches? There are numerous causes but the most common cause is the Tension headache –which 90% of the population will experience at some time, followed by Migraine which occurs in about 12% of population. To confuse things even more, many people suffer from “mixed” headaches where a Migraine headache can trigger a Tension headache and a Tension headache can trigger a migraine.


Tension headaches often begin in the back of the head and upper neck as a band-like tightness or pressure. Tension headaches also are described as a band of pressure encircling the head with the most intense pain over the eyebrows. So you may experience pain around the back of the head, the temples, the forehead or behind the eyes. Moving the neck or bending forward for prolonged periods of time can makes the headache worse.


The pain of tension headaches usually is mild (not disabling) and bilateral (affecting both sides of the head). Tension headaches are not associated with an aura (aura is usually associated with Migraine) and are seldom associated with nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound. Tension headaches usually occur sporadically (infrequently and without a pattern) but can occur frequently and even daily in some people. Most people are able to function despite their tension headaches.


The pain of a tension headache develops because the nerves in the upper part of your neck are connected to your head and face. A disorder of the upper neck or neck muscles can cause this referred pain to your head. This is where your neck is actually the culprit of your headache. Suggestions that your neck may be contributing could be:


  • Pain radiating from the back to the front of your head
  • Headache brought on by or worsened by neck movements or staying in the same position for a long time – eg computer work, long distance driving
  • Headache which always feels worse on the same side of the head
  • Headache eased by pressure to the base of the skull
  • Headache which persists after your doctor has eliminated all other causes


Physiotherapists are experts with indepth training in posture and human movement. Our physiotherapists will be able to determine if your neck is causing or contributing to your headaches. Headaches are often caused by disorders of the neck or by physical or emotional tension. Physiotherapists can successfully treat headaches originating from the neck or soft tissues and show you how to prevent the pain from recurring.


You can prevent the onset of Tension headache by following some of these simple suggestions:

  • Sit up properly and arrange your work station to best suit your height and shape.
  • Stand up every 15-20 minutes to recover the arch in your spine.
  • Go for a 40 minute walk daily.
  • Try to stretch regularly through the day.
  • Take a break every hour to stretch your legs while driving.
See our section on Tech Neck and Computer related Injuries
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