Help for headaches

August 22, 2017

Headaches: they affect up to 90 per cent of the population in Australia, so chances are you’ve had one. Today I will dig a little deeper by giving you a rough guide on how to prevent and manage them.

First of all let me start by saying there are lots different types of headaches; and secondly, headaches are different to migraines. An osteopath is qualified to properly ascertain which type of headache it is you are suffering from and direct you down the right treatment and self-management path.

Today I will focus on cervicogenic headaches — essentially a fancy term for a headache that originates from your neck (cervical spine is your neck, genic in Latin means coming from). These headaches are commonly seen in office workers or anyone who spends long periods of time seated at a computer.

This is because extended time in these postures places stress on the neck causing your neck muscles to contract continuously to support your head. Over time this can cause those muscles to become very tight.

This particularly affects those that sit underneath your skull and at the front of your neck, these muscles then have the ability to refer pain into your skull — rewarding you with a lovely (or not so) cervicogenic headache.

So how can you manage these headaches? Research has proven manual therapy, such as osteopathic treatment, to be successful for the management of cervicogenic headaches. Treatment can help reduce the tightness within your muscles, it will also improve the mobility of the joints within your neck. This will decrease pain and headaches and allow your neck to move freely again.

I recommend receiving maintenance treatment every six to 12 weeks once your headaches are under control. This will help to keep your tissue healthy and ultimately reduce your chances of a relapse occurring. To keep those muscles nice and loose you can use self-massage.

At Keep Active we sell spikey massage balls; these funky-looking tools are the ultimate cure for cervicogenic headaches. Life throws some strange coincidences at you occasionally that make you scratch your head and wonder.

I recommend placing the ball underneath the base of your skull on the soft squidgy tissue with a towel covering the ball to reduce skin irritation. From here, roll your head side-to-side and expect to reproduce your headache — this is a sign that you have found the culprit.

To further prevent headaches your static or seated posture should be assessed. We live in such an anterior-dominant world (most of the things we do are in front of us, especially when at our desks), I believe managing these static postures 
to reduce stress and load on those neck muscles is really beneficial. Getting an ergonomic assessment by your local qualified osteopath will address any imbalances at your desk.

Common mistakes we see are your screen being too low or too high, so your neck is placed on a bias creating stress, or incorrect chair set-up not maintaining spinal support.

Changing these things will automatically improve your static posture by modifying certain factors that could be contributing to your pain.

- Keep Active Osteopath, Christian Georgopoulos

Do you see an Osteo for headaches? What are your experiences? Share them in the comment section below. 

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