Are your headaches a pain in the neck?

26 September 2013

Are your headaches a pain in the neck? It is generally accepted that  headaches are the most common symptom we come across in medicine.
  • There are a few different types of headache... True Migraine Headache, Tension/Cervicogenic (from the neck) Headache, Hormone Headaches, Cluster Headaches to name but a few. The  NHS report that the highest incidence of headaches are tension-type and neck related. 
  • Whilst there is evidence to show that osteopathic treatment is useful for preventing true migraine and cluster headaches there is little doubt that we do much better with Tension Headaches which are cervicogenic in origin.
  • These Tension/Cervicogenic Headaches are typically (but not always) one sided and pain is referred to the head from  bony or soft tissue structures of the neck and often around the shoulder blade.  Tender/Trigger points  are 'knots'  of contracted muscle which have a reduced pain threshold and are extremely sensitive. Trigger points in the upper shoulders, between the shoulder blades and sub occipital muscles (base of the skull) refer pain to the head and are usually tender when pressed. Patients sometimes report a feeling of pressure in the head and often behind one eye with the pain sometimes so severe that it can cause sensitivity to light and nausea.
  • Mechanical stress from poorly functioning neck joints can affect the nerves of the head, neck and even the face and when spinal nerves and associated tissues are stretched or irritated they can produce throbbing headaches. Emotional stress will often increase muscular tension, especially at the base of the neck, head and jaw, potentially irritating nerves and upsetting blood flow to the brain which may cause headaches and even true Migraine.
There is an abundance of evidence now to support that osteopathic treatment is extremely effective in treating headache... particularly tension/cervicogenic type headaches. In 2004 one study showed that manual manipulation was as effective as treatment with strong prescription drugs such as Amitryptiline, but with much fewer side effects. It is worth mentioning that The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) state that over-medicating is a factor linked to the increasing incidence of chronic headaches.
It has to be said that there are countless factors which may contribute to headaches from basic elements such as poor posture, mental tension, jaw problems, dehydration, hormonal inbalance, side effects from medication etc etc. The priority for any osteopath is to accurately diagnose your headache to ensure that there is no sinister underlying cause. In our clinic we take a detailed case history and examine carefully. In very rare cases we may order more tests such as x-rays or scans but we find that in the vast majority of cases, headaches can be attributed to a mechanical dysfunction and we can therefore treat them successfully... and quickly.
Osteopathic treatment for headache is gentle and usually involves stretching of tight muscles and mobilisation of restricted joints to improve flexibilty and ensure good blood flow to all of the tissues in the area. In many cases only a short course of treatment is necessary. 
If you wish to discuss how we may be able to help diagnose, treat and eradicate your headaches please call us on 020 8203 8977. 

Tags: osteopathy headache, cervical headache, migraine, cervicogenic headache, osteopathic headache

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