Headaches are common and often associated with neck pain, mid back pain and shoulder pain. Most people suffer from headaches at some point in their lives, and the severity and intensity can vary. Causes may include muscle tension, sinus congestion, trauma, high blood pressure, pre-menstrual syndrome, pregnancy and, very rarely, vascular pathology, tumours or meningitis. Muscle tension or migraines and common causes of headaches.
A brief explanation of the main types of headaches:
- Tension headaches – also known as ‘cervicogenic’ headaches. Originate from the cervical spine area, and can present as a constant, tight ‘band’ of pain around the head caused by muscle tension in the neck and linked to periods of increased emotional stress or prolonged postural strain.
- Migraines – can originate through vascular or neurological conditions. Presents with intense, one-sided, pulsating or throbbing pain and aggravated by movement. It may be preceded by visual or sensory disturbances. Triggers such as exercise, cheese, chocolate, alcohol, travel and caffeine can be causative factors.
- Cluster headaches – are sudden episodes of brief (up to 90 minutes), intense pain centred round one eye often combined with redness, tears, sweating and a runny nose.
- Sinus headaches – infection or irritation causes the sinus membranes to swell and block the channels to the nose resulting in increasing pressure and compression of the facial nerve which can result in pain between the eyes and either side of the nose.
Educating patients to reduce causative and aggravating factors, whilst including musculoskeletal interventions, can help improve headaches and migraines in patients. Osteopathic treatment can be invaluable in reducing the pain and musculo-skeletal tension experienced by headache and migraine sufferers. Soft-tissue massage, articulation and gentle joint releasing techniques together with acupuncture techniques (as appropriate) often provide considerable if not complete relief from the patient’s headache symptoms.