Headaches are the most complained about pain in the country. In many instances they are preventable and in most cases they are treatable. As a general rule a headache is caused by joint or muscular tension or dysfunction. Often bad posture or emotional stress can be to blame.

Getting headaches way too frequently?

If you have a joint or muscular dysfunction in the neck that is left untreated, chances are you will get headache after headache after headache. If you can feel pain or tension in your neck, pressure around your forehead, tightening at the back of your head, sore temples or jaw, dizziness or pain on the same side of your head as the neck pain, it’s likely you have what is termed a cervical headache.  If you don’t have these symptoms, your headache may be as a result of other causes and you should consult your relevant medical practitioner to rule out things like migraine, allergies or eye strain. Cervical headaches are most common in people aged between 20 and 60.

What’s the technical explanation?

If you have joint or muscular dysfunction in the neck area, the body often tries to cope by referring the pain to the head. This is because the nerves that are being strained or injured in your neck connect to various areas in your head. Pain may be experienced as a dull ache at the back of the head, behind the eyes or around the temple region. In extreme conditions, pins and needles may be felt in surrounding areas (upper back, shoulders and arms).  Symptoms will often increase as aggravating movements are repeated for example, continuing to sit at a computer with poor posture and ergonomic set up.

How do I prevent a cervical headache?

The best way to treat and prevent a cervical headache is to pay a visit to your physiotherapist. Your physio will diagnose your exact condition and develop an individual treatment plan based on your personal situation.  This program will often include postural assessment and alignment, joint mobilisation and manipulation, exercises, electrotherapy, heat treatment, remedial massage, dry needling (acupuncture) and ergonomic correction. A holistic program covering the treatment areas and methods above will aid in relieving symptoms and releasing tension.  Most importantly, it won’t just be a quick fix – it will help prevent the headaches from becoming a chronic regular occurrence.

You can also consider some relaxation techniques if you feel your headaches are resulting from emotional strain and tensions. Consider what causes the emotion and how you can avoid it or change the way your body responds to it. You should also make note of your posture. How are you sitting when you’re at work, driving, reading, studying or using a computer? Perhaps you can also think about your bed and whether your mattress is supportive and if you have the correct pillows. If you find it hard to get comfortable when going to bed this might be a good indication that something needs to change. Consult your physiotherapist about what you should do to correct your bedding, posture or tension-based responses.