How I treat headaches
Updated: May 19, 2021
Some headaches come from the neck (cervicogenic headache). I'm a specialist in neck rehab, so quite often I solve a headache issue by fixing the neck.
How do we know what's causing the headache?
Headaches can come from multiple different sources. Most chronic headache sufferers start by seeing their family doctor and following their advice. When that hasn't helped, your doctor may order a series of tests like blood work, x-rays and CT scans to rule out serious problems. They may then send you to an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist, or a Neurologist. Sometimes those specialists are able to identify and treat the problem. Other times, your headache is coming from your neck. That's when it helps to consult a physiotherapist who treats neck problems.
What's wrong with my neck that's causing headaches?
When I examine your neck, I'll identify things that aren't working right - neck vertebrae that don't move properly, neck muscles that are too short or too weak. It can take up to 30 minutes to fully examine your neck. If I don't find any particular problems, then we have ruled out your neck as a source of your headaches, and you need to carry on with your family doctor to continue investigating.
When we do find problems, here's what I tend to do to treat them:
Posture correction (you may be surprised how difficult it is to correct a habitual posture that is straining your neck all day long. I'll help show you how)
Correction of how you move (sometimes the way your use your arms or the way you look over your shoulder is a problem for your neck. I'll show you how to fix that)
Manipulation of joints that don't move (there are different ways to get your vertebrae moving again. We'll talk about which way is best for you. And sometimes it's even your jaw that's not moving right)
Deep muscle release (some muscles are chronically 'angry' and they need some direct attention to settle them down)
Lengthening of short muscles. (stretching your neck is quite easy. If you haven't started yet, I'll teach you the stretches you need)
Strengthening of weak muscles. (this one is really important. Some headaches are due to incredibly weak neck muscles where you feel that it's hard to hold your head up as the day goes on. The only way to fix that is to exercise the right way. That takes a bit of work to learn. I'll teach you and send you home with well-designed instructions that you can follow)
Seeing a physiotherapist is not 'grasping at straws' for headache sufferers. It's basic good practice.