Having trouble with persistent headaches? Here’s how to treat them

Jun 15, 2020
Here's how to treat painful headaches. Source: Getty.

As a physiotherapist, I have treated many clients with headaches. There are many varieties of headaches, but the type that we come across the most relate to an imbalance in the nerves, muscles and joints in the body. If your headaches have had consistent and regular pain patterns, have been assessed by your GP, and painkillers aren’t helping anymore, then a physiotherapist assessment of the neck, shoulders and back may be best.

Why is this? Our whole body works in a chain. If the chain gets kinked — for example, neck stiffness, shoulder tightness or back stiffness — this can result in pain. One common area for this pain signal to come out is the head — the result, headaches. And research has shown that 80 per cent of these headaches are caused by the neck.

How is this possible? The head weighs approximately 4 to 6 kilograms. It balances on our neck, which has over 21 joints, that connects to the thoracic spine, which has a further 36 joints, and then the shoulder blade and shoulder joint. So in this small area your body requires mobility — for your head to turn, body to rotate and arms and shoulder to move — with good stability. This area is made up of nerves, muscles and joints that work cohesively to make this happen for you. However, if one of these key components get affected then there is compensation, and the body can only accommodate a certain level of compensation before the pain threshold is met, therefore resulting in headaches.

So what can you do? Exercises in the form of yoga, tai chi and Pilates are very helpful. These are low-impact exercises that get the body moving, improve alignment and remove any kinks in the chain.

Here are some stretches and exercises that can assist with headaches:

• Back and forth tilts: Move your head back and forth 10 times
• Side-to-side tilts: Move your head side-to-side 10 times
• Neck rotations: Gently rotate your neck to the left and look over your shoulder. Hold this position for a few seconds. Perform on the opposite side. Do each side five times
• Press: Press the back of your head into your palms. Hold five seconds and release. Then press the front of your head into your palms. Do each side five times
• Alternating side press: Place your palm on the side of your head and press back. Perform on the opposite side. Do each side five times
• Alternating chin press: Place your fingertips on the side of your chin and gently push your head. Perform on the opposite side. Do each side five times.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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