Whether the pain starts in your neck, the back of your head, or front and center behind your eyes, headaches can seriously throw your routine off. While reducing your stress level can often reduce your headaches, getting rid of the pressure you are under is not always practical or simple.
Wondering what else might help? Physical therapy!
Call our office today and find out how a physical therapist at Austin Manual Therapy in Austin, TX just may be the key to getting rid of stress-related headaches once and for all.
What is a stress-related headache?
Headaches, or tension headaches as they’re also known to be called, feel like a painful ache or pressure on your neck or head.
This type of headache is the most common type of headache in adults, lasting from 30 minutes to a day or more. Tension headaches often begin in the early on in the day and can spread over the back and top of your head as the day progresses.
Sometimes these kinds of headaches will go away with an over-the-counter medication, however, if you’re experiencing this kind of pain daily, depending on medicine is not the best or safest option for your condition.
Our sedentary lifestyle is partly to blame for tension headaches. In a recent study, the average American spends upwards of 12 hours per day sitting down. With the recent pandemic, more people are working from home, using electronic devices, and are less active than they once were.
With more and more work happening at computer terminals, many of these hours are spent using poor posture as we slump over a computer screen and keyboard.
Of course, the natural solution has been ergonomically designed workstations that place your entire body into a proper place before beginning work, but the amount of time we spend sitting down during the day often contributes to the amount of stress-related headaches the typical person experiences.
Common causes of headaches
While most headaches do not have a definitive cause, stress-related headaches are often triggered by either a singular stressful event or a buildup of tension throughout the day. That is why they tend to happen at mid-day, when stress buildup has already occurred.
This means that the problem is not the stressful event itself, but rather the way our body is positioned as we experience it. Poor posture, drooping shoulders toward the ground, tense muscles in your back and neck, and fatigue can all contribute to the poor body positioning that often causes stress headaches.
Other contributing factors to stress-related headaches include:
- Physical or emotional stress
- Alcohol consumption
- Caffeine (drinking too much or having withdrawal)
- Colds, the flu, or a sinus infection
- Jaw clenching or teeth grinding
- Excessive smoking
What about migraine headaches?
Migraines are a bit heavier than regular headaches. This type of pain can cause a person to be bedridden temporarily, and things such as light, movement, loud noises and other triggers can cause intense pain. Nausea, numbness, problems speaking, and loss of vision are also common symptoms with migraine headaches. In fact, migraine headaches are the first cause of disability in patients under 50 years old.
A study published through NCBI, titled “Physical therapy and migraine: musculoskeletal and balance dysfunctions and their relevance for clinical practice” explains: ““Around .5% of individuals with migraine are considered to have a chronic condition, defined as presenting with more than 15 headache days within a month.” (Carvalho) Physical therapists assessing and treating patients with migraine should focus on two primary aspects: (1) musculoskeletal dysfunctions, and (2) vestibular symptoms/postural control impairment.
Signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal and/or vestibular dysfunctions are prevalent among individuals with migraines and different disability levels can be observed depending on the presence of aura or increment of the migraine attacks.”
You may have been taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for your tension headaches pain, but this is not a long-term fix. Physical therapy can address the underlying structural cause of your pain, and this is also true in the case of chronic migraine headaches as well.
How can a physical therapist help me?
“There are currently two main approaches patients could benefit from: (1) addressing musculoskeletal dysfunctions, especially in the craniocervical region; and (2) addressing postural control impairment and vestibular symptoms.”
True to this statement, at your first appointment your physical therapist will evaluate your posture, balance, control, overall strength, and movement. They may also ask you to describe your workstation to see if poor posture throughout the day is contributing to your headaches.
Next, they will prescribe a series of mobility exercises, and targeted strengthening exercises for you to do throughout the day to give your body a chance to reset its position, and cut back on the number of tension headaches you develop.
Finally, they may give you a series of strengthening exercises to do on your own to strengthen the muscles in your stomach, back, shoulders, and hips so you can hold your body properly as you work.
Your therapist will also teach you how to perform pain-relieving techniques to do on your own whenever you experience tension headaches. These may include ice, heat, self massage, stretching, or strengthening movements.
It’s important to note that even though you are the patient, you are not alone with your treatment! Your physical therapist will be beside you every step of the way to help guide you as you figure out what causes your headaches and what makes the pain subside.
Looking for relief? You’ve found it.
If you are tired of headaches or migraines derailing your day, call our office to make an appointment with our physical therapist.
You’ll be surprised by what a difference physical therapy can make in the life of a person dealing with this kind of pain!
One of our skilled physical therapists will be happy to evaluate your condition and create a comprehensive, customized treatment plan for your pain relief.